Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Covenanted Community

Thanks to all who commented on my previous post, particularly John.

"Community" is an overused word that has come to be almost meaningless -- which is why I used the phrase "covenanted community". As Christians, we are incorporated into the one invisible Church by baptism (evangelicals would substitute conversion for baptism, but that doesn't change my point). In order to live healthy Christian lives, we must also become part of particular expressions of church -- in parishes, small worshipping communities, religious orders, etc., which may in turn be part of other expreessions of church -- jurisdiction, denomination, etc. Now, in order for any group of people to function, there are certain common rules, laws, regulations that must be established -- otherwise chaos will result. That is where the "covenant" comes in -- the agreements that communities make in order to function. Without the depth of commitment to such relational covenants, true intimacy and authentic "community" will not result.

While I am an outspoken advocate of indie priests offering solitary masses if no congregation is available, I don't think it is healthy for such liturgy to be the only expression of prayer. Corporate worship is a necessary part of the Christian life, and without it, one falls into the danger of an idiosyncratic, eccentric spirituality that is not grounded in the incarnational reality that worshipping with others offers. And to get the full benefit of corporate worship, one must establish a relationship with a particular praying community -- worshipping with different congregations without settling down is a sign of immaturity.

But existence as a regular congregation does require sacrifice, and rules, and lots of mundane things that many "spiritual" people may prefer not to deal with. If nothing else, there is the at-least weekly sacrifice of an hour or more for worship (and hopefully, also, fellowship). It may seem spiritual not to deal with money, but in an incarnational religion such as ours, there are hymnals and vestments and bread and wine to purchase. Conflicts will arise, and compromises will occur, and the music won't satisfy everyone's tastes, and not every sermon will meet one's needs, and the text of the liturgy may be too traditional or too modern -- and yet, it is to such a human community, with human problems, that one must commit -- not merely a collection of friendships, but an actual community, that can make some demands on one's life (and vice versa).

Hopefully, local communities will have some connections with other local communities, which may lead to jurisdictions or other arrangements, or may not. But without entering this covenant of community, one risks a spirituality cut off from the incarnation.

2 comments:

Alexis said...

standing ovation,
much whistling,
stomping of feet,
amen, amen, amen,

you don't mind if I roll in the aisle too do you? . . . love the carpet by the way!

:)

Alexis said...

standing ovation,
much whistling,
stomping of feet,
amen, amen, amen,

you don't mind if I roll in the aisle too do you? . . . love the carpet by the way!

:)