When the Moderator of the PC(USA) visits campus, and you write a blog with a title such as this one, you are morally compelled to practice the spiritual discipline of blogging even if you have NO TIME.
Moderator Cindy Bolbach came to SFTS today, preached in chapel, and joined us for lunch. She's fun and funny... I appreciated her sermon and especially her mention of a quote from Fredrick Beuchner: "I don't go to church that often any more because I don't experience God there." While empathizing with that, she suggested: maybe we don't necessarily go to church to have an experience of God. It's awesome when the experience happens, but maybe we go to church to help others experience God, or to meet people who have experienced God, and to be strengthened and supported by one another. Maybe we go to punch holes in the roof and let our friends down on mats so they can experience God.
These thoughts hit close to something I've been wondering about a lot recently... Why does working in a church feel so different from being part of a church? One is, I know, because we don't form the same kinds of friendships when we have a professional role dividing us from those we spend so much time with. But also I know that we see the dark underbelly of Church when we work for her... the ruts of old thinking, the stress and the burnout, the necessity to work constantly to make sure the roof is watertight (thus keeping us from letting our friends down on mats to see Jesus!)
Brian McLaren hits the nail on the head in this article on Patheos. Let's make churches more like seminaries. Moderator Bolbach said that young pastors are one of the places she sees the most hope for the church. Well, those young pastors are going to burn out before they get to be in a place to have much to say, unless church becomes more like the inclusive and stimulating communities we know from seminary.
One cheerful postlude: thank God for social media. At graduation, seminarians are generally scattered far and wide, and the precious community support that we had at seminary is ripped out from under us. EXCEPT FOR ON FACEBOOK! Dear seminary friends, you will never be defriended, because our connections are the kind I need, to keep trying to do this Church thing with all its stresses.