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Mar 10, 2009

What is Church - Peter Trudinger


What is church? In my early university days, I discovered the art work of M.C. Escher, a Dutch artist who delighted in producing images that confused the mind through subtle transitions from one perspective to another. Each small segment made sense, the total image contained mysterious contradictions.

The word church is like an Escher etching. What it is depends on your perspective and each perspective has its advantages and difficulties. Here are four of them:

From a theological perspective church is the body of Christ, the mystical combination of all believers throughout time and space, often called the church catholic or universal. This church exhibits an amazing diversity and resilience, and reminds us that we are part of something much larger than our present issues, something assured of continuing existence. Historically, church as an institution has taken various denominational forms, some of which have contributed the richness of their traditions to form our thoughts and practices … and to limit them. Physically, church is a building. It may be an older building with a traditional vaunted roof, creating a feeling of space and peace, or a more practical hall, encouraging a feeling of engagement with the community. The space shapes our worship and spirituality. Finally, as pastoral theologians would point out, church is congregation, the people who gather on Sunday in the building to worship together. 

Pete Ward, in Liquid Church, proposes another perspective on church, one which I find helpful. He views church as composed of relationships among people and the communications that take place between them, organized around particular themes or ideas. From this perspective, a fellowship group meeting is just as much church as Sunday worship, or participating in an internet group (receiving Sojourners Daily Notes, or reading the Alban Institute weekly eNewsletter), or assisting Red Dove Café or some other focused communal activity. Liquid church is flexible, reshaping itself as themes change, and broad ranging, extending well beyond worship on Sunday. 

Networks are an innovation in the UCA. They fit well with the concept of liquid church. Think about our network, the Urban Mission Network. It is a spider’s web of relationships organized around the desire to worship and witness in an urban context. It is a liquid church. Our key objectives (see the website http://www.urbannetwork.org.au/) shape and guide our evolving community. How do we strengthen our web as it is today? What new strands do we spin for the future?

March 10 2009

Last Updated Tuesday, 01 October 2013 15:22

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