Since I left parish ministry almost two years ago, the oddest question I have been asked is, "What do you preach about now that you have left the church?" The people who ask tend to be deeply involved in their communities of faith. Many are clergy or denominational officers, while others supply the volunteer hours upon which any community depends. Church is more than a place or a people for them; it is a primary source of identity. So when they ask me their question, they ask it with compassion, as they might ask an amputee how she is getting along without her leg.

The first part of my answer is that I have not left the church. While I no longer serve one particular congregation, I still work for the church. The difference is how round that word has become for me. It no longer means a denomination, a building or even a self-identified community of believers. Instead, it means a far-flung bunch of people who are engaged in holy work. Some of them belong to church bodies and others do not. Some identify themselves as Christians and others would rather not. They include stockbrokers, seminarians, ballet teachers and bishops, as well as a few homebound prayer warriors and some Native American elders.

What they have in common is an acute sensitivity to the brokenness of other people and a willingness to participate in their healing. If God were to give them True Church T-shirts, I do not think any of them would wear them. The work itself is their primary source of identity.