This picture was taken by my husband, Greg, who was recently on a trip to Quimperle, France. He took it because he knew I would like it. It is a relic, a leftover, from a Nazi invasion of this particular village in 1944. The village was destroyed, and upon its rebuilding President Charles de Gaulle ordered for this to remain as a permanent memorial to what was.
It reminds me of so much of what we religious people read about today- that the church is dying, that the church is filled with hypocrisy, it is but a sham to house the broken without a charge to heal and head back out. That we stand for nothing anymore. These notions could all very well be true, but how would it change our posture if we consider Pentecost? If indeed, the movement in the world by such a divine force continues, as was promised by pre-Easter Jesus, then how does that change the way we consider the metaphor, a leftover church, in this picture?
Another idea we claim stake in as the faithful is that WE are the church. The Rev. Donna Mote, our friend and Missioner for Innovation and Engagement for the diocese, says “the church has left the building.” By the collective numbers of liturgical churches nationwide, one would have reason to agree, but perhaps not in the way she meant. We humans, we Episcopalians, perhaps tend to become anxious about the decline of churches, the incline of church closings, the changing terrain of Sunday School formation, and the rise of the jumbotron just above a dwarfed altar perhaps even missing a cross. If we ARE the church, and we have left the building, WHAT EXCITING NEWS! In biblical terms, the unification of creation depends upon all gifts being carried out for the sake of others.
I felt called to write about this since I have agreed to sharpen the quirky skills I have been given and fine-tune the call that God has given me for this particular time at seminary. I am absolutely excited and fearful at the same time. In a sense, this crumbling church is the old way for me. It’s scary and I have no idea what lay in my path. But by the absence of Grace Church alongside me, without the old supportive and familiar way, light will be bestowed on my heart and mind. We have to trust that “floating sense” which the leaning into the Spirit’s movement so often brings. There is no funny quote or one-liner to go with this picture or the idea, but a hope, even small on some days, that the church continues. It breathes and clamors for life-giving breath…in us.
Where is the Spirit calling Grace Church? What does Grace Church look like on the street or at the grocery store? These are questions I ponder when people tell me that the church must have courage in these times. So, that’s what I pray for. Courage and enough trust to let the Spirit move. The church is changing again. Will we, the church, have courage to say, “Let it be so”?