So, you found church outside of church, funny, that’s where I find it to.
This was a comment from a friend on my Perfume and Ash post. I had left the Basilica early on Ash Wednesday and met a homeless woman who blessed me with, "Have wonderful day sweetheart!"
The universe conspires. I’ve just finished reading "Leaving Church," a marvelous new book by Episcopalian priest, Barbara Brown Taylor.
"Leaving Church" is a memoir not a manifesto. Which should relieve priests and pastors. Then again, as priests and pastors know, stories are more powerful than prescriptions.
Taylor tells of how, against desire and inclination, while serving the church as priest, she became a "professional holy person." The machinery kind of kicked in and momentum did the rest. She speaks openly about how the toxic effects of maintaining the machinery, the expected persona, crowded out the joy and promise of her vocation.
Becoming encased by the â€œchurch-systemâ€ might suggest that the solution is simply a question of management. For her it was much more. The disconnections were happening with the church at large. Church hardening over issues of sexuality, environmentalism, warfare, compelled her to question old certitudes. Friends from other traditions brought her to face new questions of the creeds. Scripture itself revealed fresh insights when approached from a new angle.
In the honest mess of her passage she found herself surrendering not only her church, but her "faith" as well. But in the process a new faith was germinating. A faith that prized "holy ignorance more highly than religious certainty."
The book is a loving confession, a song of praise, a joyful discovery of new faith through full emersion into humanity.
It is not a diatribe against the church. It is in fact a story of relearning that the church is not a stopping place but a starting place for discerning God’s presence in the world. A simple and agreeable notion. But one that too rarely leavens hearts and supervises the system.
But change is happening. Beyond the walls of the "church," people are finding church. Beyond the surety of static "faith," people are finding faith.
And I would think that one of the points of Lent, would be to find church beyond the perennial seduction of safe walls. To find God without a safety net. To find Her sitting outside the church on a stone step, waiting for us to come out.