Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Almost Church

I recently finished reading a slim volume recommended by my minister. The book is called The Almost Church by Michael Durall. I'll make this easier on myself by transcribing the bullet points I took while reading and then summarize and/or synthesize it all later.
  • What we need is a compelling vision of a way of life that is worth living (9, via Misoslav Volf).
  • What should be a religion of love and justice has been superseded by personal spirituality.
  • A specific tactic: maybe stop posting the sermon topic but actually expect people to show up, not pick and choose.
  • "churches should help people of all generations lead lives that cut across the grain of the consumer-oriented society" (14)
  • encourage an increase in charity [to church/es], not to pay the bills but to give; redefining the good life "as one that goes beyond acquiring ever more consumer goods"
  • "we shall never find the fullness and wonder and the glory of life until we are ready to share it" (15 via A. Powell Davies)
  • What brings people to churches now?
    • How can I lead a deeper spiritual life?
    • engage in something beyond the day-to-day
    • purpose/meaningful community
  • Durall recommends churches give 10% of their budgets to outreach (21).
  • "The primary purpose of the church is to create a community of compassion" (33). All else must flow from this.
  • "Does your church have clear glass windows, through which the congregation looks out onto a world in which sorrow and unhappiness are all too evident? Or are those windows more like mirrors, reflecting only the comfort, convenience, and needs of parishioners inside?" (34)
  • Errors in the way we do things:
    • "foster small-church policies that do not serve large congregations" (38)
    • fail to realize that theological diversity and a large number of worshippers are incompatible goals
  • There is a 'third way.' Religious liberalism does not mean the opposite of fundamentalism. Religious liberalism should be an anti-secularism (42).
  • Do our religion's leaders see themselves as Caretakers of an existing system or as actual Leaders to make the system better? (53)
  • Page 66 of this book describes family-size churches and describes my UU church to a T.
  • Luke 12:48: "to whom much has been given, much is expected."
  • [My thoughts here:] It's about expecting more from yourself, from your church, from your parishioners, in money and in soul. But how do you stake your claim and/or exude authority? Where's the moral or religious gravity?
  • The vision is "not to provide the autonomy of the individual and to seek truth." Instead, the vision is deeper spirituality through service (84).
That's it, isn't it? Deeper spirituality, a better life in and out of church, through serving others. Through not seeing the Other as separate from oneSelf. To stop navel-gazing (as I do with this blog) and actually get out and do something. Sounds like one of the next books I should read is Ron Hopkins' The Power of Just Doing Stuff or, better, going to see him in a couple of weeks in Houston. Or better yet, to up and do. Right now I'm doing for me - eating better, exercising, reading more, spending time reaching out to people I love. And I'm living in a friend's house, which reduces my carbon footprint, reduces her financial burden, and improves a sense of community [we walk together several mornings a week]. I should do more gardening. I should do more with people. So it goes. Not out of pity but out of true compassion. It is only by sympathizing or empathizing with people that we care about them and are willing to change the world for the better.

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