I’m at the Big Event 4.0 with the RevGalBlogPals and we’ve been discussing how to define “church”. As you may guess, most of us write blogs, among other things, and we’ve noted that our blog traffic isn’t limited to the people whom we see in our places of worship.
Knowing that we don’t want to limit our audience (really!), then we’ve been trying to figure out what to call the people with whom we converse through electronic media, but whom we do not see in the pews.
In other words, are the electronic spaces “church”?
What is church?
There is something to be said for the face-to-face interaction, the bodily presence together, sacraments experienced in the flesh, the sharing and mutual hope for God’s peace.
On the other hand, there are people who have been hurt, who struggle with doubt, who cannot yet step into a sanctuary precisely because it does not provide sanctuary (as it were). Yet these brothers and sisters have something to contribute to the community of believers.
If we limit the definition of “church” to the space inside a building that occupies a specific address, that is too fine a point. Nevertheless, we cannot dismiss the importance, even the longing for, interaction in person.
The Incarnation, that is God among us in Jesus, helps us to understand our need for interaction and congregation in the flesh. Even the most introverted among us longs, occasionally, for the consolation of company.
Electronic church is real and cannot be dismissed. The bounds of electronic church demonstrate the need for fellowship, collaboration, support, debate and exegesis that define some of the best parts of the Christian faith.
So many words in that last sentence need defining: exegesis, Christian, faith, fellowship. We argue about what they mean and does a particular word mean to me the same thing that it means to you?
And, I think, that’s one of the best definitions for church: a place where one gathers with others and knows the love and presence of God, through the indescribable means of conversation, shared burdens, and the Spirit.
Sometimes that happens in the church and sometimes church happens.