“We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.”Hebrews 10:24-25
More people are deciding that going to church is not for them. Those who are known as the “nones” — unaffiliated with any religion — are growing in number, as are those who identify themselves as atheists or agnostics. This growth is more pronounced with young people. What we discover as we talk with the nones is that not being affiliated with any religion does not mean having no faith in God. What seems to happen is that other things fill up a person’s time and there is no room for religion. The time they may have gone to a religious service is replaced by other activities. And the service itself does not seem relevant.
At the same time that the young are staying away from religion, it is the young who are waking up to the many injustices in our world and are wanting to do something about it. They are angry at environmental degradation, at poverty, at gun violence, at racism, at sexism, and concerned about education, indebtedness, and employment. They are better at understanding that there is something wrong with our shared social life. When there are demonstrations and protests the young rush into the streets. They are passionate and idealistic, the marks of youth. How does this relate to Christ, to faith, to gathering together as Church? I believe that this desire to do something is what makes Church relevant today.
In the Ecumenical Catholic Church we continue to move deeper into what it means to be a follower of Christ. We join together as Church to follow the messianic call of the Holy Spirit to form sacramental communities, to preach the good news of salvation and liberation to all, to offer a refuge in Christ for those who suffer prejudice, and to conform our lives to the example and teachings of Christ Jesus. In other words, we are about doing the work of Christ in our world today. This includes working to do something about those things that young people want to change.
Salvation is not this one-on-one thing with God and is not about getting yourself to heaven. It is about bringing heaven to earth. It is about working to bring about a world where our shared social life is one that brings life and justice to all, including to creation. Because these issues are huge we know that we are not going to get something done on our own. We believe that all people possess valuable gifts and talents to be shared. Participation of all the baptized in the work of the Church is essential. And it is essential to join with others, believers and non-believers, who are also working toward the salvation of our world.
Being a Christian is about a new way of life that is patterned after Christ Jesus. Jesus did not station himself in a building somewhere to be worshiped. He was out and about, telling truth to power, healing, raising up the poor, and reconciling those separated from the community. In other words, the important part of being Church happens outside our doors where we as the Body of Christ meet the world that needs healing. We gather together as Church in order to be strengthened and emboldened for this work. Wherever the people gather becomes their Sacred Space. We are the ecclesia — the Church — those called out of the world to be sent back into the world to transform it. The focus must be the people and not the building when you talk about Church.
I believe that gathering together as Church is beneficial and to be recommended to all ages, especially if your Church understands that its mission is to equip you to go back out the doors to do the work that needs doing. Those of us who continue to gather each week have learned that breaking open the sacred writings passed down to us from our ancestors inspires us, and breaking and consuming the bread — the Body of Christ — strengthens us for the work to come. We are reminded each week that we are the Body of Christ continuing the ministry of Christ. We are not in this thing alone.
“And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31.” It is my hope, my beloved ones in Christ, that each week the Holy Spirit will shake things up and send you out to do the work of God with boldness. Do not stay away, but come together in support of one another and be refreshed, renewed, and resent.