• "Bigger is better?" Not in this house.
Furthermore, churches should have no business owning property (unless it serves a significant purpose other than being a house of worship—ie., a homeless shelter). The house of God is not a steepled building (as beautiful as they may be). The house of God is all of creation, and is attested to in the human heart. Why should a congregation take on the burden of a mortgage, or pay to heat/cool for a whole week a building that is mostly utilized only on Sundays?
• No creeds, no sacraments, except...
• Order of WorshipIt is important to explore and expand beliefs and traditions. However, there must be a baseline order of worship for any regular meeting/service, or its own fluidity will cause it to fail. Granted, every order of worship is subjective, and reflects the values of its particular faith community. With that in mind, however, here is what I envisioned:
- Gathering/Greeting/Passing of the Peace/Reading of Scripture (15 minutes). I seldom experience as much joy as when I have the privilege of initiating the Passing of the Peace in the small rural church where I often preach. By beginning the service this way, a general pleasant attitude is engendered in the hearts of those gathered. Reading scripture at the start of service and before the period of contemplation gives congregants something to meditate upon.
- Homily/Music (15 minutes). This should be the least important part of the service, and at the same time, the most malleable. Should someone desire to speak, that would be fantastic! Should the congregation happen to have a musician that could lead us in one or two songs, that's wonderful! But the service does not hinge on this portion. This is merely a time of worshipful expression, in whatever form that might take.
- Fellowship/Eucharist (As long as it takes). This should be the most important part of the service. Being the central practice of Christian tradition, the sharing of a meal helps build community and invites us to share in the same love that Jesus shared with his disciples.
Congregants would sit in a circle/square, similar to the style of a Quaker meeting house. There may be candles; perhaps not. There may be an altar; perhaps not. The focus would be on one another.
• Diversify, diversify, diversify!
This all sounds fine and dandy to me. But here's the great difficulty: the Church does not exist to serve the needs of one person, or even two or three. Churches—as places of worship—exist to serve the spiritual needs of the congregation; they function primarily as a place where communities can gather to experience the Other. Post-modernity has splintered any illusions of a monolithic worship service that we might have previously held to be true. The so-called "Emerging Church Movement" has given birth in the last twenty years to schizophrenic faith communities who vacillate between the desire to be grounded in tradition and the desire to be sensitive to those without a specific tradition (a stance that has erroneously been dubbed "seeker-friendly"). I suggest that a church need not be encumbered by its desire to be sensitive to others' unfamiliarity in order to make converts. Churches should be courageous laboratories of spiritual experimentation that are at the same time unafraid of seeking out their own traditions. The only way in which the Church can continue to be a place of hope in this decade and the decades to come is if we break free of what is known and begin to dream.
For more information about house churches, check out these 15 theses by Wolfgang Simson.