More about exile. What about those who remain committed to the established church but whose spiritual nourishment and formation takes place in other communities? I met after work today with two friends where we drank coffee and solved the problems of the world. We discussed our hunger for spiritual engagement with our peers and how difficult it is for the regular church to be the place where this can happen. It became clear that each of us have alternative communities to which we turn for strength and support.
But it was also apparent that for each of us we have no intention of leaving our respective churches, and rather than being angered by the various weaknesses we are instead saddened. These other groups function in our lives to equip us or prepare us to more fully engage with the institution. I guess the breakfast group is one of those for me, but not the only one. As we talked B. remarked that in these settings we find ourselves doing church, and we nodded knowingly over the coffee.
This raises the possibility that we may actually be exiles in church. And seeking its welfare is another challenge altogether. I remember when Bob Lupton from Atlanta visited the Mission some years ago and made a comment which has stayed with me. He said that critics of the church find it too easy to kick the Bride of Christ when she is down. He’s right. For some it may be necessary to leave, but not all. Sometimes we are called to stay in exile, in the church, and to seek its welfare. That’s me, I think.
The exile metaphor is tremendously elastic then. And in this way it may be the Old Testament equivalent of Jesus’ instruction to carry your cross. Our own particular cross may be shaped in unique ways for us. Our cross may be our local membership of the Body of Christ.