June 3, 2011

Rethinking: C-H-U-R-C-H

Here is my Sunday Morning talk from Church of the Brethren 2011 Young Adult Conference at Camp Inspiration Hills, Ohio.

Micah 6:8
NRSV: He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
   and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
   and to walk humbly with your God? 

THE MESSAGE: But he's already made it plain how to live, what to do, 
   what God is looking for in men and women.
It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, 
   be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don't take yourself too seriously— 
   take God seriously.

I have been asked to speak on church in the campus realm. So, the student in me has formed a pneumonic device around the word we’re rethinking: CHURCH. They involve things that have helped shape our community at BC and my current understanding of what church really is…

C is for Chapel
Chapel is where I get my worship on when I’m at Bridgewater. Chapel is a lovely hour of student-led praise and worship that occurs every Thursday morning at BC. It features a speaker in the form of a student, professor, community member, or our Chaplain Rob $$ (pronounced Dollahs). This past year we began a new practice of having a small time of questions and discussion after the speaker talks. It’s a time for the rest of the community to share and react to the speaker – it encourages involvement and requires me to do more than just sit passively in a pew. 
We have a time of greeting, which is really just an awesome hug fest. There’s some jamming praise music to sing and dance to and fair trade hot chocolate. There is always so much joy when we gather as a community to worship. We’re excited to be present and always thankful for this time to worship together.

H is for Hunger – appeasing activities
…essentially fellowshipping over meals. In addition to sustaining the mortal form, meal times are a lovely opportunity to fellowship. There’s something so basic and beautiful about being able to sit with others and eat – Jesus did this many times with his disciples and followers. I mean, when we eat you kind of look funny, don’t we?  I think so. There is something vulnerable about being able to sit across from someone and eat a meal together. At BC, we have a table that I fondly refer to as the Brethren Table. It’s not as exclusive as it sounds. But it is assuring to know that I can drop by the dining hall most any time of the day and find friends to sit with – without much planning and coordinating. Sometimes we let time get away from us and I’ve been in the dining hall for an hour more than I planned, because I’ve been immersed in a conversation about the speaker in Chapel or… inequalities in the world or… the latest Nerf gun raid on the President’s house. 

U is for Ultimate Frisbee and 4-Square
…which is all about taking time to play together as a community. I love how the Message phrases the final part of Micah 6:8 – “Don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously.” Taking time to joke and play together as a community is essential and just good fun. Playing Ultimate and 4-Square are opportunities for us to not take ourselves seriously – how can you when you accidentally throw a Frisbee into a tree or when you blast that 4-square ball way past the intended square. OK, yeah. So a lot of groups can and do play together – but our play is always done in a spirit of encouragement and mutual appreciation. I can see a big difference in playing with my Brethren and as opposed to others who only value the game. Sure, we’re competitive, but we rejoice together in that tuck and roll you did to catch a Frisbee or when you go hard in da paint. Something unique about our play together is that each individual is valued as a competent and worthy child of God - no matter one’s sex or skill – we’re happy to have you and rejoice in success together and sigh with you during failures as well.

R is for React.
Micah 6:8 – Calls us to do what is fair and just to your neighbor. Opportunities to grow as a community are essential, but moving and acting outside of our small campus community is also our call. It’s been a blessing to have a New Community Project chapter on campus. I know other campuses have clubs that encourage similar involvement, but NCP has provided us with a lovely avenue for reacting to needs of our neighbors.
At the beginning and the end of the school year we went Dumpster Diving together (I think in some circles it’s known as Dumpster Dancing, they’re basically the same thing) We recycled massive amounts of cardboard, saved boxes of un-opened food which were donated to the food bank, and retrieved a working MacBook…what!? We’ve dirtied our hands in the community garden growing spinach to serve in the dining hall. We’ve shoveled, hammered, sawed, and wheel-barrowed our way through service days at the Community house at NCP in Harrisonburg. Dirty hands and dusty bodies are often signs of a full heart and time well served.

C is also for Class
…as in the classroom. A lot of people teased me when I went off to college – don’t learn too much, they warned. Really? Really. Never do I feel more challenged in my faith than in the classroom and that’s a good thing – that’s a great thing! This past interterm I took a class titled Xian Perspectives on Peace and Violence – I didn’t sleep much – but every class I felt so alive, because our readings (which I spent all night taking notes on) and our class discussions were so much more real than most Sunday school lessons or sermons that I’ve heard. The classroom is a dynamic place to enrich your faith – as well as challenge it. Maybe more so than my traditional Sunday school class, because it involves students and a professor from all different walks of life and even different faiths or denominations. Not just with my Peace Studies minor, but all of my educational classes have helped form me into a more well-rounded human being, with a better understanding of the world.

The final H is for Hmmm Moments
You know the one’s that make you scratch your chin or your head in thought, moments that force you  to question and discern…
I’ve found that college has been an extreme time of change in beliefs, as we’re exposed to new experiences and opposing viewpoints. My own faith has been broken down and rebuilt while at college. The initial breaking down of my faith could have been detrimental to who I am, if I hadn’t belonged to a community that was supportive and provided a space for questioning and uncertainty. My beliefs are now stronger and more rooted in scripture than ever before because of my affirming community that encourages Hmm moments. 
Hmm moments are important, because they remind us of our humanity and humble as at the same time. Hmm moments encourage us to rely more fully on God and God’s community. Sometimes we’re not always certain…but if we continue to walk humbly with God and God’s people – I think we’re headed in the right direction.

So, what does God require of you? Burnt offering? Rivers of oil? No, that we walk humbly with God, do justice, and love the world something fierce.

This vase has traveled with me this past year to Senior High retreats in Florida, South Carolina, and Virginia and now it’s here at YAC. It’s been a symbol for the power of the ripple effect in sessions I’ve led and Now I place it in our worship center as a representation of the power of God’s community to create positive ripples in the world. 

1 comment:

  1. love love love love love love lovedd this<3