Oftentimes these days, I’m struck by the question “What is church”? Is church somewhere we go to get some sort of message from God? Is it a community center, meant to serve a population of people with activities and entertainment? Is it a service organization, just like any other NGO? Is it just an old decrepit building? Is it a dying institution? Is it even relevant, and if so, how?
That sweet little children’s rhyme where you make a “church” by folding your fingers together often comes to mind: Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors, and see all the people! I always found the rhyme a little creepy, but I guess it’s fun for children to sing. But the rhyme doesn’t quite get it right. The church is more than just the building where we gather. The church is the people who gather. We ARE the church.
This past weekend at the UBC Family Campout, I was brought back to this foundational concept of what it means to be church. Church isn’t somewhere we go, it’s not a building, but it is who we are when two are three are gathered. As we sat around the campfire singing Long Tall Texan on Saturday night, I watched as marshmallows were given, laughter was shared, “and the gathering of believers was one in heart and soul. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they owned” (Acts 4:32). My heart was full. I was reminded that this spirit of love and compassion, this Holy time shared together is the foundation of everything that we do. This is the church.
From the beginnings of the early church, it has always been about those of us who gather together in community and choose to embark on shared spiritual journeys together. It’s grace experienced together when we mess up and need forgiveness. It’s taking care of each other. And out of that love for one another, as we ARE the church together, we are compelled to share that love of Christ through tangible ministries of love, compassion, and grace to our neighbors.
I love the campout. And each year I am reminded of the great depths of love and respect this church has for one another. As we embark on what is next for UBC, let’s not forget to just be church together sometimes. Let’s enjoy more laughter. More love. More real life, face-to-face conversations. More hugs. And more marshmallows.
Peace and Grace, my friends,