Church and Community

During seminary, I took a great course called "Understanding Your Congregation."  It was supposed to be a "congregational leadership" course and I suspect that many folks who registered for the class had certain expectations about how they were going to, by virtue of participating in this class, learn how to lead congregations.   But that word "understanding" signified to the professor and to at least some students that this was not going to be a ten easy steps one minute manager sort of undertaking.

We talked about many different things in the class, and I still remember it as one of my favorites outside of the Biblical studies area.  Frankly, the course blended all sorts of interesting aspects of congregational life and congregational leadership and systems theory and evangelism and other bits from here and there, so that the professor sometimes began telling a story and we just wandered through other stories and asides, along with some practical information about such things as architecture, preservation, and problem-solving.

One of the sidebars that we talked about was the value of a church to a community, even to people who do not attend the church.  People like knowing that there area churches in the neighborhood, that people are doing the (positive, obviously) things church people do such as tutoring at the local school or running a thrift shop, food pantry, clothing closet.  Steeples in the neighborhood indicate that good is being done in the neighborhood, prayers are being said; maybe people will even become involved in that church some time if they need it.

This strikes me again as I look out our hotel window and can see several lighted steeples above the buildings and trees; the pool deck on the 2nd floor has a great view of the cathedral we visited yesterday.  I've heard church bells pealing a time or two, as well, ringing out a hymn or two at certain times of day.  I mentioned in my post yesterday that there are churches everywhere here.  We wondered as we walked around today how they are all supported.  And we wondered how much ministry they can do when they need to keep their buildings and properties up because of their historic building status or just general social status.

Obviously I can't speak to these wonderings with anything but more questions or suppositions without doing some research.   But it would be interesting to stop people on the street and ask them, "how do you feel about having all these churches in your town?  Do you appreciate that people are saying prayers in them, do you know what kind of social ministries they are doing, would you go to one if you felt despair?"