Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Local Church

I asked my friend Melanie what have been the most significant positive growth factors she has experienced while in undergrad. Her thinking aloud prompted me to consider what I would have answered for that question. After this morning, I would offer at least part of my answer to be this: the local church.

Of course, "the" implies singular. With the naked eye, there are many local churches in a given area of the United States. Even the smallest town seems to be imbued with at least two white planked structures for different denominations. Theologically however, "the" is an accurate article. The idea is that there is one church that encompasses all Christians in the world. The word "local" is what designates it as one smaller gathering that is part of this larger, invisible, catholic/universal church. Words and phrases used to describe the invisible reality are "Body of Believers" and "Bride of Christ." The experience of being part of this divinely ordained and established family comes through the local, smaller communities.

I've grown up in the church. It is wired into me that Sundays mean church, especially Sunday mornings. I loose track of the days of the week if I miss a Sunday morning. But it was not until college that I began to appreciate the beauty and grace that comes in being a consistent part of a local community of other Christians. The reasons for this are varied from small, seemingly insignificant delights to more serious theological considerations and the health of one's own spirit.

Today, I was struck by some of the many smaller and wonderful gifts I have found in a member of a church. I could perhaps blog at length on each of the things I have listed below, and perhaps I will someday. For now however, I will just share a few, and observe that I am grateful for them.

  • Someone making zuccini bread for a C. S. Lewis book reading at 7:45 in the morning. I don't know if I would have made it without that sustenance.
  • Food in general. Churches are often places where people know how to eat.
  • Being adopted by a family. The Reeds are the best!
  • Getting to hang out with highschool students between Sunday school and service.
  • Having "Sunday school", even if it just exists so I can play hooky from it occassionaly.
  • Babies everywhere. Babies and newborn infants. Amazing.
  • Adults who know my name and care about me.
  • Rides everywhere.
  • Lunches at Waffle Shop with people I hardly know but will enjoy anyways.
  • Standing in the sanctuary before anyone else arrives. I love empty church sanctuaries, something that started for me in high school when I worked as a janitor at my church. Today, I started singing "Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul" and then found out we were singing it in church. Perfect.
  • Often knowing at least one family when I go grocery shopping.
  • Kate Sauder teaching me how to grocery shop. And Becky Watlington telling me how to get rid of ants with corn meal. They are so smart.
  • Getting to be part of family histories. I wrote a prayer last year on behalf of a woman I had never met but was part of our church family and had just lost a baby mid-pregnancy. Today, she is due any day with her third child
  • Being around people who are married and single, parents or not, in academia and in service jobs, students and professionals. The greater the variety, the better!
It's a beautiful thing. Messy often, as I find when I listen closely enough to hear histories and stories of where this community has been. But beautiful because at the end of the day, these are the people that take communion together, make food when someone is sick, throw innumerable baby showers, and keep becoming something better than what we would be alone.

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