Naming it holy

Wireless world, networked ministry — Part VII of a series

By Rev. Rick King

Much is changing in the institutional church today, and the pandemic sped up the change in the past year and a half. This series of columns is based on the book “The Digital Cathedral” by Rev. Keith Anderson, to expand our concept of Church beyond the bricks-and-mortar, exclusive-membership, financial and flesh-and-blood institution we’re used to, allowing God to birth the NEW reality, already underway in the world.

At the first theology pub night Anderson ever hosted, he encountered John, the young adult son of one of the church’s most active members, who himself rarely went to church and shared with Anderson that evening at the pub that he had misgivings about organized religion.

One of the most significant things clergy and ministry leaders do in the lives of Nones or the unaffiliated, Anderson observes, is to name the things in people’s everyday lives as holy. The pub that night created a space where people could just BE, and discuss questions, doubts, misgivings and affirmations they have about God, Jesus, the Bible, theology, and organized religion. In contrast to a church building, people are more likely to come to a pub or coffeehouse as they are, rather than as some person of faith wants them to be.

For a long time and in many ways, people in the church have emphasized the distinctness of the church from the surrounding culture. And while that may be helpful in forming people already in the church into good church members, it’s not necessarily a good way to create a safe space for people not part of the church or Christianity to notice the sacred in their own lives. The God Box of the church can create a space with loads of expectations on how someone is supposed to look and act. And this perpetuates the chasm between the church and those not part of it. Jesus would want us to spend more time in the more open of the two spaces, rather than the God Box.

He says cathedrals, with their open theology, embrace of the arts and sacredness in everyday life, and special relationship to their surroundings, have been “naming it holy” in people’s lives for centuries. William Lawrence, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, in 1919 wrote that reconciliation, not conversion, is the work of a cathedral.

Think of that: reconciliation precedes conversion. That means the space we create and those we inhabit as people of faith are places where people can come to see their lives as already holy, and themselves as already in relationship to God, the sacred, or the holy. It’s not something we have to import into anybody’s life—God has already done that.

What can you name as holy in your own everyday life? Where and how might FHCers create spaces where people can name their own experience as holy?