This week, the Acts 8 BLOGFORCE begins a three-part challenge, asking the question “Why the church?” It begins with a 30,000 foot view, then we’ll move closer to earth as ask “Why Anglicanism?” and finally “Why The Episcopal Church?” If you’d like to join in the fun, you can find out more at the Acts 8 Website.
Last week, I wrote a blog post reflecting on the RCL Track 2 lesson for Proper 15A, Isaiah 56:1, 6-8. I focused my attention on one line from the prophet and used it as the title, “A House of Prayer for All People.” In it, I pondered, in an America where nearly 1 in 5 professes no formal religious tradition, what role does the Church have in meeting the spiritual needs of the rising Nones? “How is it then, in the growing post-religious society (at least in the West), are we called to meet the needs of those who are seeking a relationship with God, or as Isaiah puts it those “who join themselves to the LORD” outside of the traditional structures of laws, prophets, holy writ, and ritual?”
A friend and colleague responded via Facebook asking, “Can one truly be spiritual without a religious tradition? I’m not sure…” Which lead to a fairly healthy conversation about how the Church, with all her baggage, differs from tradition, which all its baggage, and community, which seems to be the buzzword of the Millennial Generation.
All of that, to say this. My answer to “Why the Church?” is quite simply, because I think it is impossible to live the life of faith on our own. Saving the famous St. Augustine quote for someone more bold than myself, I’ll say this, the Church is a “wonderful and sacred mystery” all right, but I love her. The Kingdom of God is, by its very nature, communal. Formed out of the overflowing love of the Trinity which existed before Creation, we are made to live in community with one our communal God and with one another. For all her faults and foibles, the Church catholic is the best model for the community of faith that we have. Ideally,
- She is a built in support structure for those moments when we feel that even God has abandoned us.
- She gives voice to our prayers when all we are capable of is a groan.
- She rejoices when we rejoice.
- She models for the world the dream of God for the Kingdom.
- She calls us each to deeper faith and abundant life.
The Church exists because we need her to. More precisely, if more egocentrically, the Church exists because I need her to. The reality is that each of us, as disciples of Jesus, needs the Church to make the life of faith the full expression, the abundant life, it is meant to be.