An Open Letter to the Idea of Church

Church is such a strange concept. It’s so ingrained and immersed in the Western world. In many ways what the word currently represents is not necessarily what I want it to mean when I say “church” but it is the language with which we currently have and must function within it.

My spiritual autobiography is deep and complex, as is every person’s experience, and I’m not intending to explore it here, but what I do want to journey through is my current need from the institution generally referred to as “church.” I’m afraid it may come off as a rant, so please to stick around to the end for my disclaimer.

I need to experience divinity and enter a sacred space when at church. I need something uncommon, a physical surrounding that points towards infinity. I do not need the contemporary. I do not need what is considered “the now.”  I need that which seeks to identify and join with God, that speaks of the ethereal and drips with mystery. I need a place that encourages me to investigate the eternal questions that wrestle within.

I need sanctuary from time, from my work-a-day existence. I need a sacred space that encourages timelessness and a leaving of one’s self. That to enter this space is to enter nothingness whereby the literal physical nature of the building says “This is holy ground. Here something different occurs.” I need an escape from the bright light of day, to find comfort in the darkness and the diffused light through stained glass and stone walls, to kneel before an altar and feel the magnanimous embrace of divinity.

I need a place that says “This is not a place for familiarity but for sacredness.” Not a place of coffee and 12 person bands. Not a place of slick graphics and intro videos. Not a place that by its physical presence prompts a person to wonder if the building is in fact a church, but rather I need a space that speaks of that which is aged, ancestral, and time-worn. I need creeds and ritual, robes and incense. I need at least a physical attempt at otherworldliness and mystery, not blue jeans and casual formality.

I realize this commentary is all about me and what I need and doesn’t address the communal aspect of church. I realize there is a movement within churches to embrace a distancing from the concept of the “Church of Me” and I agree with such ideals. I get that it’s not about me, that it’s about God. But in many ways, it is most certainly about me. Me and my relationship to God. What I need to embrace the idea of God. God is God. He does not change, but I do, as we all do.
I’d also like to acknowledge that there’s a great many approaches to church, and just as I need a particular approach, many others have approaches that speak best to them as well. I’m not advocating for anything. I’m just giving voice to a need within myself, but also hope to inspire within people to investigate how they best encounter the divine rather than just accepting what is offered.

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