P is for Purpose
New weekly musings inspired by the alphabet...
Normally, I see the word "purpose" and I freak out.
What's my purpose? What am I supposed to be doing? What's the point of my living? How do I not know the answers to any of this yet?
But this time,
I'm thinking about the purpose of church. Of going to church. Of having a building.
For me, church is a verb. We are to be doing, not sitting. Not worshipping. Doing. And not doing merely within the safe and familiar walls of that church but out in the community doing the the work of love - the work of kindness, mercy, justice and hospitality.
For me, church is a community of faith. A faith that came from the words and actions -- the doing -- of Jesus.
Our purpose as human beings is to help each other walk the path of life -- especially when the path is hard and the light is dim. We need each other because life is hard. We can't do this alone.
So when we gather under the umbrella of faith, the purpose of church is to be a community of people with a common call to serve others and to find support from each other.
Just like each of us needs a house to keep us safe and protected, a community of faith needs a building but we don't need to be tied to a huge building that takes up all our energy and our financial support to maintain; that means we aren't devoted to people, we are devoted to the building.
Yet a church that is filled with pews and hymn books and stained glass windows -- all bought and paid for by members -- creates attachments in people that shift their focus. They find more meaning in the building and the stuff inside the building -- the comfort they derive from this unchanging space -- than they find in the world outside that building. They don't want anything to change inside the building, and they lose their focus on changing the world beyond the building.
Which is where the church is supposed to be. A church building should merely be a meeting place, a staging space, rather than a closed-off, members-only club. It is the launching pad for sending us into the community to do the work of love: feeding the hungry, comforting the grieving and the hurting, fighting for justice, encouraging the ignored, welcoming the strangers and the outcasts.
I wonder if my feeling this way about the church somehow reflects my lifelong struggle to fit in with church. I've always wanted to be doing but never knew what to do. Never found the doing that clicked.
I know, somehow, that I am called to serve others in a spiritual context -- not as an ordained minister -- but through my thinking and my writing. But lacking the credibility of the ordained, I find I don't know what my purpose could be.
I know I seek a community of faith, and meaningful work within that, but I have yet to find a community of faith that gives me a sense of purpose.
Or helps me understand my purpose and the meaningful work I'm called to do.