On Sunday, we launched My Church Is Not Dying with Greg Garrett For Individuals and For Groups. In this class, Greg emphasizes that mainline churches today need to bring the Church into the larger community rather than expecting the community to come into the church. Some churches have found some exciting ways to bring their worship and ministries into their communities.
Greg emphasizes the popular Ashes To Go movement, for example, in which clergy from many churches take to the streets, offering passersby in the community the opportunity to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. This year, some churches extended this ministry into Palm Sunday, offering Palms to Go — palms and cards with blessings on them — in the community.
In hot weather, some churches bring water into the community, distributing cold bottles of water with blessings to people who are hot and thirsty at public events or simply on the street. In his book The Digital Cathedral: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World, Keith Anderson writes about St. Philip’s Cathedral in Atlanta, whose Dean, Sam Candler, flings cold water on the hot runners in the Peachtree Road Race each July, crying blessings to the runners as they pass. The physical blessing of cold water on a hot day combined with the symbolism that the Church associates with water turn these gestures into powerful liturgical acts.
Keith Anderson emphasizes that people who do not subscribe to a particular church nevertheless recognize spirituality. It is important to incorporate the spiritually important aspects of people’s lives into our ministries.
For example, the Rev. Emily Mellot, pastor at Calvary Episcopal Church in Lombard, Illinois does her annual Blessing of the Pets at Lombard Veterinary Hospital, a local animal hospital, rather than on the church campus. Many people, including some who do not acknowledge any kind of formal religion, recognize great spiritual value in their love of their animals. Emily’s actions extend a powerful blessing to people who probably would not have sought out such blessings in church.
These are only a very few of the many ways in which churches have begun experimenting with bringing liturgy, ministry, and blessing into the community. What ways do the churches in your community use to bring the church into the world? Please comment. We’d love to read/share them.
For a preview of Greg’s class, please click here.