There was a time when the people we saw at church were our neighbors, the people we went to school with, worked alongside and encountered at the market or the town square. We knew them from civic organizations, bowling leagues and the volunteer fire department. They were our cousins, aunts and uncles. We worshiped where we lived and with the people we lived with.
In those days it made sense to worship in tidy rows, looking at the backs of people’s heads. After all, we knew that head and the person it belonged to. We were already a community before we entered the sanctuary. We were already a part of each other’s lives and we’d surely see each other again before the next Sunday.
Today, many – maybe most – churchgoers don’t see others worshipers except on Sunday. And because only a portion of most congregations attend every or nearly every Sunday, we may not see other even once a week. We are not a part of each other’s lives outside the church.
And yet we continue to worship in tidy rows, looking at the backs of people’s heads. We attempt the intimate community acts of singing and speaking and praying together, when we haven’t built up the familiarity and trust necessary to sing and pray with comfort and confidence. We attempt service and fellowship with people we don’t really know. Where the church was once an aspect of a larger, integrated community, it is now disconnected from our other relationships.
My vision for DPC is for us to become a community of intimacy, vulnerability and witness with an explicit focus on faith in Jesus Christ. A community in which people living disconnected and discontinuous lives can find connection and continuity. A community that values authenticity over image. A community of trust and accountability in which our brokenness, doubt and fear can be shared, not hidden. A community that is unapologetic in its particular commitment to true inclusion, expansive and progressive theology, and broad social justice – and a community that ties those things to the gospel of Jesus Christ. A community in which worship is indigenous and participatory, rising out of the gifts and talents of the community, nurtured and prompted by those with particular talents and training.
In short my vision is for a community that knows and loves each other’s hearts, not the back of each other’s heads.