Looking Ahead by Looking Back
I mostly agree with this interesting post by Bishop Martins—one of the few substantive blogging bishops out there, by the way [and it helps that he believes the Gospel, unlike most of our Episcopal church’s bishops]. I think that people—at least the pagan people who are and have been unchurched—enter the Church through a different gate, initially, then Sunday morning worship. I think the challenge for bunches of Christians is . . . they’re not friends with unchurched pagan people, and if they are, they don’t know how to engage with them about Christianity other than to say “how about coming to my church on Sunday morning” which invitation is often received with indifference.
Anyone who’s heard me give my standard post-liturgical coffee hour stump speech in parish halls across the Diocese of Springfield for about that past year could be forgiven for thinking Matt Marino and I are intentionally singing off the same song sheet. We’re not. But it is affirming to see that I’m not the only crazy person who thinks that the post-Christian culture we are presently careening into invites us to look a lot more closely at the practices of our Christian forebears in the pre-Christian Roman Empire. In my moments of immodest self-assurance, I’m tempted to exclaim, “Somebody else gets it!” Of course, I’m fairly certain that I myself have not “gotten” it yet. But ... still.
As I’ve been pondering the whole challenge of the church’s response to secularization (which, with a particular focus, Fr Marino’s blog post also ponders), I’m now just about confident enough to say it outright: the Sunday Eucharist is not for visitors or guests in general, and certainly not for “seekers.” We need to stop thinking of the Sunday Eucharist as a potential new member’s first point of contact with the Christian community. That is a huge horse pill for us to swallow, because it contradicts all of our instincts; it is completely counter-intuitive. But if we look at that horse pill askance, that’s a sign that we’re still mentally in Christendom, and have not downloaded the new post-Christendom mental map. Making our buildings and services more “welcoming” to visitors made perfect sense in the old order, when not everybody went to church, but most everybody at least had a particular church that they didn’t go to. It is close to completely incoherent in the post-Christian world.
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