Church and experiment

There’s quite a bit coming out now regarding the one year mark of the pandemic.  This week marks one year since we’ve worshiped together in person on a Sunday morning – or, as our daughter Lily is now calling face-face interactions – “non-virtual.”  Interesting how the reference point for normal can shift…

Going from non-virtual to virtual church has been one big experiment.  It’s been wonderful to see how worship and meaningful connections can take place from our homes, not to mention an added efficiency with no-commute meetings.  It’s been a time for tech savvy folks to shine and carry us along. 

And experimentation has gone beyond just adapting to Zoom.  Our sanctuary experience has been a holy experiment in what it means to be in solidarity with one family facing deportation.  This has drawn us deeper into our core commitments, and extended us broader in the community.   

We are also experimenting with planting a new church.  The specifics of this vision are yet to emerge, but there are conversations and imaginations that are opening up new possibilities.  During our (virtual) Central District Conference regional meeting on Saturday, we heard that several other communities in CDC are doing church plants.  The conference and denomination want to be supportive.  

Elizabeth O’Connor was a leader in the Church of the Savior in Washington, DC, an innovative congregation that spun off numerous community ministries over the years.  She believed that church is inherently experimental – that being agents of the reconciling/repairing gospel propels us into new ventures. 

As we mark one year of the pandemic and as we begin to look to life on the other side of it, let’s consider these words from Elizabeth O’Connor in her book Call to Commitment:

When the church starts to be the church it will constantly be adventuring out into places where there are no tried and tested ways. If the church in our day has few prophetic voices to sound above the noises of the street, perhaps in large part it is because the pioneering spirit has become foreign to it. It shows little willingness to explore new ways. Where it does it has often been called an experiment. We would say that the church of Christ is never an experiment, but wherever that church is true to its mission it will be experimenting, pioneering, blazing new paths, seeking how to speak the reconciling Word of God to its own age.