Friday, November 24, 2006

The Church as a House

We're used to thinking of a church as "the house of God", but I've been reading a book called "Congregation: Stories and Structures" which recommends that we think of a church much like any house. The point is that we already behave this way; we just need to recognise it. So what does this mean? Well, if we think about it, we'll realise that we do treat the church like a house - and not just the building; it's about 'the family' who gather together. Like all the best homes, we try to demonstrate hospitality, to make people feel welcome, but it's not always easy - after all, every 'house' has its own rules, doesn't it? They may not be written down anywhere. They may not even be spoken. But people find their place in the house according to certain standards of behaviour, certain ways of doing things, particular "understandings" about who is in charge of what, who is responsible for what. Every house is a bit like this, and each church has its own unique "understandings" as well. We can't help it. But the question is: can we see what we're doing? There's also the question about who is the head of the household? Like most houses, it will depend what issue you're talking about - some people are in charge of the shopping and kitchen, others in charge of the fixtures and fittings, etc. But as a church, the true head should not be any individual or the minister, but the Spirit of Christ - which reminds us to always check out how well the running of our house accords with Christ's Spirit ... which isn't primarily about maintaining the structures, but is about showing particular concern for 'outsiders' ... Mmm.