Magazine article The Christian Century

Blessed Messes

Magazine article The Christian Century

Blessed Messes

Article excerpt

IN HIS RECENT BOOK The Jesus Way, the unfailingly helpful Eugene Peterson observes: "Community is intricate and complex. Living in community as a people of God is inherently messy. A congregation consists of many people of various moods, ideas, needs, experiences.... It is not easy and it is not simple."

I thought about that as I continued to ponder Anthony Robinson's comments in the previous issue (January 29) on the phenomenon of the megachurch. In the course of his article, Robinson cited Stephen Ellingson's worry (in The Megachurch and the Mainline) that megachurches, in their readiness to abandon traditional ties for the sake of addressing contemporary needs, are not "communities of memory" in the way that most congregations have been. Being a community of memory means being a living part of a large and old tradition, one that extends well beyond the interests of current members.

I learned about this the hard way. Years ago I was asked to chair a committee to help five rural Indiana congregations that were struggling to pay their bills and keep their doors open. Each was located in a small community with a declining population. Each had once been a vital part of a community that included a bank, a drugstore and a public school. …

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