A few weeks ago, I was feeling nostalgic. It was the fifth anniversary of my family’s pilgrimage from Southern California to suburban Chicago for my interview weekend at First Congregational Church of Western Springs. It feels odd to call it that, though; it wasn't so much an interview as a time of holy conversation, prayer, worship, laughter, feasting, and fellowship. The terms of my call were unofficially worked out at a kitchen table while the Super Bowl droned on in the other room.
When I, along with a friend and colleague, started planting a new church in Chicago about five years ago, we had lots of ideas about how to do church, but one thing was certain: we wanted to do church differently. Lots of church planters have the same mission.
We told other existing churches that we weren’t in competition with them—we wanted to attract people who, for whatever reason, would never set foot in a narthex. In other words, we didn’t want our church to be too. . . . churchy.
During this General Assembly, the PC(USA) made some historic moves. One of the main ones was that there was an authoritative interpretation passed so that pastors who serve in states where marriage equality is legal can preside over those ceremonies.
This will be the fourth year of UNCO. We’ve gone from a small handful of people who really wanted to meet one another after interacting on Twitter to meeting on two coasts, conconting dreams and implementing creative projects. If you are interested in working toward the future of the church with action that moves beyond hand-wringing and an institutional nostalgia, then by all means, go to UNCO. You’ll find kindred souls there.
Why are we losing congregations? There are many factors. If
I’m painting with a broad brush, I’d say that it is because we are largely rural, white and older. What can we do to ensure a vital future? Focus on urban