As an Episcopalian, I believe that liturgy and the deep experience within it should have an effect on faith. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi – the way of prayer is the way of belief. Of course there are valuable worship experiences in community: some even of the mountaintop variety. But to the alarm of many; honest, relevant, responsive, sincere liturgy and spiritual communities are becoming rarer and rarer. We all have an inkling that this is so, finding our corporate faith experiences flat. What happened?
When attending an Episcopal Church, the primary message sent out by the staff is Don’t bother.
Don’t bother to get involved except to read along,
Don’t bother to add your prayers,
Don’t bother to express how the lectionary readings may have touched you,
Don’t bother to share in community how God is touching your life or the news is changing your priorities,
Just don’t bother.
The combination of dismissing the laity with a misdirected investment in the hierarchy of the institutional Episcopal church results in 19,000 leaving TEC every year. The Episcopal Church which takes great pride in how inclusive it is, ironically ends up excluding everyone but those collecting salaries who keep in line with the status quo. Its own existence the primary objective, TEC is so busy producing, it has lost the capacity for self reflection and listening to the faithful.
The institution doesn’t realize it is in the middle of epochal change in which direct experience trumps dogma and creed. The leadership of The Episcopal Church and other mainline denominations would do everyone a favor if they awoke to that fact. Plainly hierarchy in whatever form is not as important than the direct experience of the life and death of Jesus and the Kingdom of God.
So I have joined those who yearn for a responsive, active, relevant, liturgical faith community – with accountability – but instead are rediscovering a cup of coffee in front of Meet the Press on Sunday morning. We cobble together rituals, prayers, Bible and book studies, and mission that are meaningful. While most rectors and vicars assigned to run family ministries are bemoaning the lack of commitment when it comes to faith at home …we’re doing it. It’s not optimal, but it sure beats enduring another Sunday morning sitting passively for the 8 or 10 o’clock (insert time zone here).
Unlike my church experiences, the thoughts, prayers, disagreements, of all are welcome here. With tens of thousands of us out there – and a good percentage of us ordained – we can light the way for the evolution of the real church, not the hierarchical institutional church – in what Harvey Cox names as the Age of the Spirit.
Sound irreverent? I pray that’s the way to hope. Light a flare on a blog, or Facebook, a Twitter, or start talking to other de-churched in your neighborhood. This is not the beginning of a new church, but the reclamation of what church was supposed to be.