I got to church this week.
(I'm not missing a verb; I'm using 'church' as a verb. I churched this week. With others. Together, we churched.)
One of the privileges of my vocation and profession is the opportunity to share in the Eucharist, the Great Glory-giving, at retirement and care homes. At one such service of worship, I met a gentleman for the first time. A devout man of faith who has not experienced a Eucharist in a long, long time.
He churched with us.
And he smiled - he smiled so broadly. Grace beamed from his face as he joined in the prayers; his face was pure delight at the reception of the elements.
I'll be honest: I love this part of my ministry. For reasons such as this.
A number of friends commented how good it was to take church to people who could no longer make it to church.
I think their sentiments are correct, but I would change their words a bit.
It was lovely to church with these people who no longer church in our buildings.
(Yes, I'm perpetuating my own 'verbified' noun. But I hope I'm also inciting a different way of understanding what church really is.)
Because these people are not excluded from church, from the ekklesia, just because their bodies are in a different place. They are just as much the body of the faithful, living the mission and ministry of God, as those of us who show up to our comfortable pew on a Sunday morning. When we say that people can't make it to church, we only mean one gathering in one spot; but I feel we must be careful not to believe or perpetuate that this is the only way to be the church. We must be careful that the folks who don't understand the truth of church don't misunderstand our comments, and think that the lesser mobile have been excluded, invalidated, deemed unworthy or unwanted.
I wonder how our entire ministries might adapt if we lived out this subtle but significant change in mindset and vocabulary: Church is a verb. An action, a state of mind, an exercise of ministry. Church is who we are, not where we are. And so, with these folks in different places and different times, we churched. We church. And we'll church again. After all, bricks and mortar are temporary, and all buildings will disappear someday. But the reality of church is eternal, because the truth of this action is the love of God.
I wonder what might be possible if we all decided to church this week...