Growing up, I learned to associate the word church with a wide range of experiences.
Church was the place we went on Sundays to hear biblical stories and share a ritual meal recognizing Jesus’ presence in us and among us. It was also the collection of families active in the Christian Family Movement that regularly met in one another’s homes to connect faith, life and action using a method known as “See – Judge – Act.” This is where I learned to associate knowledge with responsibility.
Church was my uncle, a priest, who went to pre-seminary as a teenager and spent a lifetime trying to labor within institutional structures while also pushing and critiquing the boundaries. It was also the dedicated women and men in the field, energized by aggiornomento (the Second Vatican Council’s encouragement for openness and updating) that mentored me and my understanding of how I was church, a member of the Body of Christ.
Church was school where Sister Terentia’s “Hi God” at the start of each day God, dedicated everything in that day to God… and Sister Maria Cecilia’s instantaneous halt of whatever we were doing to pray at the sound of a siren -mindful of those who needed help and those who were responding … and Mr. Nestorak’s scoliosis-bent body challenging our scientific minds and abilist assumptions … and Sister Cecilia Maureen’s invitation to actively participate by teaching Sunday School, ultimately opening the door to my calling integrating faith and media.
Church is my family… mom’s seasonal decorations ritually replicating the liturgical calendar in our home and calling us to mindfulness… Gram’s daily meditations and recitation of the rosary… all of us gathered nightly in the hallway outside my parents room, to kneel in God’s presence, reflect on the day, and pray. It is also the families that chose me and that I have chosen – the Kingdom Construction Company, First Fridays, Second Wednesdays – each a form of intentional community sharing the Word as we attempted to become it.
Church is via media – the middle way – balancing conservation and innovation, institution and grassroots, literal and symbolic, personal and communal, invitation and restriction, espoused and operative, human and divine. Living in this tension, church calls for honesty, authenticity, intentionality, mission-focus, liberation-orientation, and love-filled witness.
Through these and other experiences, I experienced a whole ecology of faith. I learned that Church is word and sacrament, justice and healing, advocacy and action. Being church means following Jesus’ Way – everyday – not just with my head, but my whole self. Being church links knowledge with responsibility – challenging that my life reflects my beliefs and that what I say I believe is actually how I operate.
As a member of the Body of Christ, I am Church. Being church crosses time and space, ritually linking past with future, calling me to be church with other and for others, witnessing God’s love by offering my gifts as we strive to enact the Dream of God.