Or Not-Church that is Church?
That was the other thing I realised when I was looking at my Living Circle pictures yesterday: In a lot of ways, Living Circle was the prototype for the kind of thing I’ve been mulling over so much lately, regarding spiritual direction and people who love God but not church, and those sorts of things.
I don’t remember where our group’s money came from. I know we had some, but most of the stuff we did, we each just paid for out of our own pockets, and since we didn’t have our own building (and to my knowledge we didn’t have to pay rent–or if we did it was minimal) we didn’t have the expenses of a physical plant.
We had a leadership team made up of people from across a number of churches, which helped keep us accountable, although I think the two churches that started Living Circle before I ever got there, still had some sort of loose oversight. I was on the leadership team myself in my second year–although I forget what my job was, and that was the year the whole thing disbanded, so maybe we should take everything I said yesterday about my young adult latent leadership skills with a grain of salt.
We still met once a week (on Monday nights), and we sang songs to God, and prayed, and studied the Bible together. Sometimes we invited a speaker to come in and speak on a topic, but mostly we just broke up into smaller groups and studied topics and sections or characters of the Bible together. (I think, if I recall, maybe the Bible study portion was the weakest part of the whole endeavour, but it wouldn’t have to be.) We broke bread together often, if by “breaking bread” you mean we ate together a lot. We did not share the eucharist (too many denominations were represented, and both Roman Catholics and Protestants were in attendance) or baptise each other. We served our community and those further afield. We went on retreats together. We also celebrated.
Most members of Living Circle belonged to their own churches, and would attend them at the relevant times, and hopefully Living Circle helped each of us who did, to serve our churches better than we would have without that network and support. People who did not belong to another congregation were still always welcome. We did not call Living Circle “church,” but it sure had a lot of overlap. There was sometimes drama, but I wonder if the reason no one thought of it as church, freed it up mostly to act like all the best aspects of church. Kind of like my leading better when I didn’t know I was leading, maybe. There are of course limitations, but considering no human institution is perfect, and acknowledging the need for improvement in a couple of specific areas, I’m still starting to think this is a good template to start with for a ministry that provides interdenominational Christian community for people who are “barely hanging on” in church, or who just don’t want anything to do with it, anymore or in the first place.
Now to figure out how to modify that template for people of the twenty-teens instead of the 1990’s, and how to “internet-ify” it for people further afield … More thoughts, The Readership?