Church Without Walls

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.—1 Corinthians 12:17

We are going to church.  Maybe we won’t be back in our building for a while, but we are going to church.  We might not sing in our sanctuary for some time yet, but we are going to church. Think of to church as a verb in its infinitive and infinite form.  To sing, to dance, to praise, to pray, to help, to uplift, to listen, to learn.  To church.  To gather as the body of Christ in whatever way we can even if it has to be in the catacombs of ZOOM.   To do whatever good we can even if it has to be organized through emails and texting.  To support each other in love and extend that love to others even if it is through phone calls and Instagram and Facebook and Messenger.  We are going to church.  We will church.  We are churching. 

So what if, for reasons of responsibility and maintaining everyone’s good health, we can’t gather in our sacred space just yet?  Our churching does not depend on our architecture.  Maybe—dare I say it?—our architecture has sometimes hampered our churching.  Maybe the sacred appearance of our doors, the religious statement of our whole building, has kept some people from crossing the threshold and stopped them from entering into the joy of churching with us.  Maybe since the outside affirms their preconceived notions, they figure that what happens inside will, too.  Maybe even we who are so comfortable on the inside have let our churching be molded by our packaging.  Thoughts?

In the Latinx communities of South Los Angeles and elsewhere in the Southwest they fandango.  Fandango is a centuries-old type of dance and style of music that originated in Andalusia.  In the Americas it has picked up some distinctive New World traits, blending old with new.  Fandango has also become the name for a kind of pop-up party, a neighborhood celebration centered around the dance and the music.  Someone will find a space then pass out flyers and at the appointed time people will come to dance and hear the band and sing the songs.

Martha Gonzalez, an Associate Professor at Scripps College, is also the lead singer of Quetzal, a band that organizes and performs at many fandangoes.  In a recent article in the L.A. Times she said,  “I think we always need spaces to gather, but it’s also the cultural work that needs to be done, creating culture so that even if the space disappears we can migrate to another space and we pick up where we left off because we worked on the culture mechanisms.  I think that’s the most important thing we can learn from having these spaces and then losing them.  The work and the culture we created continues to thrive.”

Take out fandango and put in church.  We need the spaces to gather but it’s really the cultural work that holds us together, the culture of being the body of Christ, the culture of being the hands and feet and heart of Jesus in this world.  We may love the building we have called church but we need to remember that it is only a facility.  It facilitates churching.  Even if the space disappears we can migrate to another space and pick up where we left off.  ZOOM, for instance.  The work, the worship, the bonding, the blessing, the loving, the welcoming, the praying, the generosity, the caring—the being the body of Christ—all continue to thrive.  Maybe we can’t gather in our building right now.  But come what may, we are going to church.

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