The church doesn’t often make the front page of The New York Times but it did yesterday morning in an article I found strangely moving. Usually when I read articles about evangelicals and politics what rises in me is my blood pressure, but this time, strangely enough, it was my sympathy.
The gist of the article is that an elderly couple in Iowa owned a modest home and next door to it an unused church which they had converted to an art gallery and framing shop, though leaving its chapel intact to rent out for weddings and catered receptions. Apparently they did a nice business. One day a couple came to rent the chapel for a wedding, in a panic because their previously reserved venue had gone out of business, and all was going well until the owner asked the two men whether it was a same-sex wedding. That ended that. The couple reported that the owner said, “I can’t take your money, and we don’t do anything for free.”
The couple sued under Iowa civil rights law, and settled the case in their favor for a sum they then donated to an anti-bullying program for gay students. The community was largely sympathetic to the gay couple and as the story reports the owners “were vilified as bigots and haters.” A while later the couple, feeling rejected and demoralized, sold their “church” to an entrepreneurial conservative church start-up company called “Harvest Bible Chapel.” Asked how he felt about selling their former “church” the previous owner, now a member of Harvest Chapel, said, “It’s like losing a child.”
In my eyes and ears this was a story of theological heartbreak across several dimensions. The old couple, secure and unquestioning in their fundamentalist beliefs, could not understand why they had been abandoned. The husband of the couple said, “Suddenly we were in the minority. That was kind of a scary feeling. It makes you wonder where the Christians went.” I felt deeply sorry for their sense of abandonment, but at the same time both anger and pity at their arrogance and ignorance. I felt just unspeakably sad that people like these have been so betrayed and mis-led by their leaders and faith communities.
But it was his question that haunts me at several levels: “It makes you wonder where the Christians went.” And I wondered to myself, “And just who and what are the Christians, and how would you identify one if you caught it?”
There was not a word of theology in the article, nor any mention of Jesus Christ, except for an acidic quotation from the late conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, “If you’re looking for a perfect candidate, you will not find Jesus Christ’s name on the ballot.” But underneath the whole piece was really the question what it means, as John’s Gospel puts it, for followers of the way of Jesus to be “in the world but not of it.”
Blessings and Peace,
A Special Congregational Meeting will be held Sunday, October 2nd, directly after worship. The Pastoral Search Committee will propose a financial package for the candidate whom they have chosen to present to the congregation in the near future. The assent of the congregation is needed to make an official offer to the candidate, and they need to proceed expeditiously. Please grab a cup of coffee and plan to stay for a discussion.
Thanksto Carol and Charles McCullough for hosting Coffee Hour last Sunday and to all those unnamed CC saints who do so much to help on Sunday Mornings.
9 AM Bible Study, based on Revised Common Lectionary, will be led by The Rev. Bob Moore every Sunday before Worship.
2nd hour on October 9 and 16 will be led by Dr. Nichols and the Interim Process Team. Please plan to attend to discover some things about images and possibilities for our life as a congregation.
Wednesday, October 19th Council will meet at the church at 7:30 p.m.
A Congregational Meeting will be held October 23rd directly after worship. Potluck lunch to follow.
Please save the date! – Saturday, November 5, 2016; 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. will be CC Work Day. Work Day is an opportunity for us to give our building a bit of tender loving care. Please plan on joining us.
The Coalition for Peace Action celebrates The Rev. Bob Moore’s 35th anniversary as an Ordained Minister. Please join the CFPA November, 12th ; 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., at Nassau Presbyterian Church (Assembly Room, 61 Nassau St. Princeton, New Jersey) in honoring their Executive Director. Visit www.peacecoalition.org to register or to make a contribution for the event.
Becky Francisco is a senior at Princeton Theological Seminary, where she is working on her masters degree in divinity. She is originally from Detroit, MI, and grew up Presbyterian, but has lived (and worshiped) all over the country. She has also spent time in South Korea doing mission work. Most recently she was in New Mexico working as a school librarian before deciding to come to seminary.
She is passionate about biblical studies, mission and social justice, LGBTQ theology, women's issues, interfaith relations, and creative and contemporary ideas for worship, and is really excited to get the chance to work with Christ Congregation this year and to be a part of the community!
“Good Reads!”* (*No, not the website!)
[This new and occasional section of the Christ Congregation Newsletter invites any reader to offer a brief description and review of a book they have read and especially value and recommend to others.
The only requirement is that it falls somewhere in the broad category of our human search for spiritual and psycho-social wholeness, growth, theology, God, religion, meaning, authenticity, community, etc. That is a category that www.goodreads.com leaves completely out! Be sure to include your name at the end.]
Diana Butler Bass, Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening (Harper One 2012).
Here is one of the best summaries I have found of the changed and changing world of the church, religion, and spiritual journeying in the last half-century. It is part memoir, part history, part theology, all under the huge umbrella topic of “The End of Christendom.” It takes seriously and sensitively the emergence in the last fifty years of an entirely new and growing demographic, young and old: people who describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” It is deeply personal, not academic, though Diana Bass is a scholar with a Ph.D. in religious studies from Duke who knows her subject thoroughly and well, and is a deeply committed Christian.
This is a compassionate and intelligent read for people who have given up (or are close to doing) on religion and the church but not their search for transcendent meaning and value. It is for people caught between the increasing irrelevance and worse of the mainline church and the toxic fundamentalism of the religious right.
It is also the right book for those who wonder what the fuss is all about because they are perfectly content with the way things used to be and can’t understand why people can’t just “believe, behave, and belong.” Here is a gentle, but forceful, answer.
Bass is among those who believe (as I do) that the exodus from our churches is not because people have left the church so much as that the church has left them. She shares the conviction of many of us that organized religion may be the last place in the world we would turn to find the robust practice of Christianity. She argues that followers of Jesus’ way today seek elsewhere than religion for what the late Canadian theologian Douglas John Hall calls the four great “quests” of our North American culture: the quest for moral authenticity, the quest for meaningful community, the quest for transcendence and mystery, and the quest for meaning.
If you have time, appetite or resources for only one book about spirituality, the church and living Christianly today, you won’t go wrong with this one.