Looking back, I notice that my last four or five posts have all somehow been related to what is church. Maybe I saw this coming… but I’m needing to take a good long break from my church. I’m still a member there, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever be back. Who knows what the future holds? But now I’m wondering if I should be looking for some other place to go for now. What is it I expect from church? What do I think church should be? For me, for it’s members, for the larger civic community, and for the world?

As a start, I think a church should be a community of seekers – people seeking knowledge and relationship with a greater, loving power. The bigger question is what does it mean to be a community? It means people who support each other and struggle with each other in a loving way. Which sounds nice… but the nuts and bolts of it aren’t always easy. People are not perfect and sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any way to reconcile the problems.

I think a church should be about living out the “kingdom of God,” which to me means living out the love of God and living in a justice oriented way. Basically, following Jesus’ teachings.

I think a church should be about social justice.

I think a church should be about meaningful worship. The church is not just about social justice. I can go volunteer with any secular justice organization to work on causes important to me. Worship is about relating to God and I think ultimately working on our relationship with God is what sets church apart from those other organizations. This must be a priority. Of course, I’m not saying here what I think constitutes meaningful worship. That’s probably another long post…

I think a church needs to officially welcome and accept GLBTQQ people and honor who God made them to be. In the UCC, this would be an “open and affirming” church. I know I have no desire to be part of a church that doesn’t accept me for who I am. I just won’t do that – I have no desire to fight that battle. I need a church that will support and nurture me, not one I have to constantly fight with. But, I also am not sure I want to be part of a church that isn’t willing to step up and say officially they are open and affirming. I know of churches that accept gay members but don’t think they need an official statement. To me, that is in some sense saying “you can come here, but don’t make a fuss about who you are… we’ll take gay folks, but we don’t want too many of them.” I’m also not sure about a church that officially welcomes gay folks but is restricted in how they can do so by their denominational rules (for example, maybe they aren’t allowed to perform commitment ceremonies). I feel quite strongly about this, but it severely limits my options on existing churches. In my city, I can only think of one church that might meet my ideal requirements (re: GLBTQQ issues) other than the one I’ve decided I need a break from.

My ideal church is probably some combination of the mission statement from my currently estranged church and The Center for Progressive Christianity’s 8 Points.

I’m not sure what else… I guess that’s all I’ve got off the top of my head.

Is finding such a church a pipe dream?

What does church mean to you?