So…It’s not a Church?

“So, it’s not a church?”

Not exactly.

“But you got a call?”


“What is it then?”

It’s an emerging faith community for people in their 20’s and 30’s, generally speaking.

“A….community…so….where does it meet?

Um, bars, coffee shops, a place called The Spirit Room

“So you don’t have an actual place.”

Well, wherever you go, there you are. That’s some kind of place.

“And this is the kind of work you want to do?”


These are the kinds of conversations I’ve been having with people—especially people in the church I am finishing up at—about my future work. I’ve just accepted a call to The Project F-M (another question I get: What is ‘FM’? Answer: Fargo-Moorhead) and it seems to be kind of confusing to people. People really wish I would be in a church building apparently. (See my post on “Not a Building” for MY thoughts on that.)

But it turns out there are a whole bunch of people in the world who don’t go into buildings called “churches” and don’t attend events called “worship.” Maybe they did once upon a time, but a really large number of young adults just don’t. (See more about this in my post on Somebody That I Used to Know). There are as many reasons for this as there are people. Some people wandered away from church because it didn’t seem relevant to the rest of their lives. There is too much of a cultural commute to take for them to walk in on a regular basis. Some people don’t believe the things they were taught in the churches they grew up in. Whatever the reasons, there are large groups of people who don’t resonate with ‘church.’

So it makes sense to create other kinds of space—sacred space, maybe—for people who don’t find meaning in conventional churches or worship. Even if that space isn’t one we own, or call “ours.” I am really excited about helping to create that kind of a space and be a part of a community that wants to engage in conversations about God and theology and things that hold deeper meaning to them. Even if we don’t use the word ‘church.’

And hey–for those of you who are in conventional churches, or leading conventional churches–please keep doing what you’re doing. It is a faith community for those who call that place a church home. I know that if you started changing drastically to respond to the needs of the people who are not currently in your churches, then all those people who go to church now would be exiles.

Just find ways to support those others who are currently in exile.

And, you can read more about The Project F-M here. (You can even donate there!)


Greek to me

The other day I was telling a friend a story about the credence table being removed from the chancel area. I stopped after I said those words and said, “and I can’t believe those words just rolled off my tongue so easily.”

I often fight the use of jargon in churches. I understand it serves a purpose—when church geeks (ordained or not) talk to other church geeks, it is faster to say “the credence table” than “the table we put the extra communion elements on” and easier to say “chancel area” than “the area up by the altar.” But when we use these words in a broader context, I believe we put walls up and leave people out. There is a whole foreign language you can encounter inside the church.

In the church I work in, I often give announcements about things people can find in the space-outside-the-space-we-worship. In most of the English-speaking world, you would call this a lobby. In the church world, you call this a narthex. And every time I have to say that word, I pause, point, and someone from the congregation says “narthex.” I usually follow that up with saying “the narthex, otherwise known as the Lobby.” Yes, it is the narthex. But it is not because I’m an intern that I pause before saying that word. It is not because I don’t know the word. It is because I want to make sense to people who were not born in the church.

The church can seem like an alternate reality that you have to go through a wardrobe to get to, or run your cart into the space between two train stops. Maybe a tornado. That’s the idea you might get if you hear people talking about stuff in the Narthexes, the new-colored paraments, (colored banners that are on the altar and pulpit, or perhaps church decorations in general) vestments (what the minister wears) fair linens, (uh, its one of the many cloths that have something to do with communion) chasubles, (Otherwise known as the Christmas tree skirt-like garment some ministers wear during communion) Patten (plate), chalice (cup)…the list is endless; I only have about half of it down. While my friend says our liturgy professor would be impressed with the ways that credence table and chancel tumble out of my mouth these days, I know I have far more to learn before I’m able to decently converse with those who are the keepers of the liturgical language. Thankfully, that is not my goal. My goal is to make sense to people when I talk to them about church, and God.

I get that the church is called to be something different, to live into God’s kingdom. Maybe it is like Hogwarts, Oz or Narnia. That would be kind of cool. I like the time I spend in those fantasy lands when I read. But if we follow the example of Christ, the church is also called to meet people where they are. Is it really that important to tell them to go to the narthex? Or can we meet people in the lobby?

There will be those who want to keep the language because it makes it sacred—separates the holy from the rest of life. I am more interested in pointing to how God is at work in all things, making all of life holy. I hope that what we do in church reminds us of all that is sacred in the world. So it makes sense to me to use language that makes sense to people, whenever possible. Sometimes it makes sense to teach people new vocabulary. And often it makes sense to just use words we all know.