OK, so “Micro-Church” is a term I made up (unless it is out there somewhere being used in which case let me know which of my fellow spiritual journeyers I can connect with, in such a like mind) but it depects not necessarily an antagonistic or pejorative response to the “Mega-Church” model and phenomenon but rather a counterbalance.

For every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction. Many people today take that concept to a place that is so polarized there is no balance at all (and you need balance in the alchemy of physics and faith). What I am suggesting is an equal and opposite action which is not creating an intenable adversarial stance but rather a suggestion that if the “megachurch” exists and serves a purpose to feed certain people in a certain way then, it would make scientific and cultural sense that the “micro-church” might be able to provide a very different kind of worship that feeds certain people in a different way.

I would even argue that the “megachurch-goer” could also transition, or fluidly move back and forth between the mega and the micro experiences and gain something new and fullfilling in both arenas.

What I suggest, I realize, calls for a number of paradigm shifts. One being a return to the small, organic, grassroots and intimate worship experience first found around Jesus’s dinner table, much the same way (Jesus’s origin) the Sabbath meal and rituals served as intimate and personal time with family and God.

The other suggestion that causes core shaking movement in the earth of current religious practice is the idea that a person can worship here and also worship there–and that if we don’t build a faith focused on membership we inherently create an environment where people want to become community members.

I love my one, catholic (lower case catholic–meaning all-inclusive), apostolic church, but as the word “catholic” indicates, I can also make that faith expand beyond the walls of my one congregation, or town, or even model of worship.

Imagine a world where the kingdom of God and the dinner table feast we share with each other is more of a buffet around one large table rather than a made-to-order choice where I sit at my small table next to yours, but never even look up from my meal long enough to see you–let alone notice what you are eating.

Extinction or Evolution?

Church is dying–literally. I don’t mean to be morbid but it is an issue of statistical morbidity. Mainline churches have a defecit of young people in their pews and there seems to be an increasing awareness that “business as usual” won’t change this demographic.

And then you have the megachurch–filled to the brim and virtually outsourced to anywhere in the nation it wants to go; energizing people with it’s combination of concert and motivational speaking, and stripped bare of anything that might look like an ancient tradition, in place there are huge camera’s and expansive technological wonders.

And people want this–but I also think this model is a great door opener and the sheen on its newness brings in young people en masse but that, as each extreme does, it lacks a bit of its opposite. This, I contend, is where the “micro-church” comes in.

The megachurch serves as a very good show and weilds biblical messages to fit the personal pursuits of daily life–the wisdom they give is a liveable one, more like the how-to’s of self-help gurus. People like that, and often we need that–just get to my language and put it in clear, contemporary metaphors, and tell me how to use it today, in my life.

I have been to the megachurches campuses with their coffee shops, giant bookstores, donation kiosks, and giant playland for kids like a tiny Disney world. It is mesmerizing. And they have great music and a high energy throughout–some of the theology, for my personal understanding of God, I have to tune out to not exist in a place of judgement, and if I do that I get it. It is an exciting environment.

But, maybe it is the Catholic in my history, the mystic St Teresa of my namesake, and the Episcopal tradition I sit in today, but, while I like a good show and an easy to chew on message, for me I need elements of quietude, soft and warm sacredness, shared in a room with a few, around a dinner table like that of Jesus and his disciples, and that of a warm Sabbath meal.

I want a space that speaks my language, and speaks to me in the parables of life I can relate to but does so in intimacy with the soft touches of the ancient surrounding and cushioning me.

Out of these reflections and personal observations came my search for, and resultant crafting of a “micro-church” worship experience. I was blessed to be in a church and a setting that let a little ol’ 30-something lay person craft the worship of her dreams.

But I don’t think they are just my dreams.

I see a paradigm shift in culture–on the edge of polarity disaster (whether political or religious), our society is at a tippling point. We have to change the dynamics of our belief and the way we live that belief or not just churches (or mainline religion) will die out–the casualties in human lives and souls could be catastrophic.

But, call me a mystic optimist, I believe that many see and feel the tipping point and are ready to explore the sacred in intimacy and find (while not ditching a mega model because it serves its purpose too) organic and grassroots communities where we sit at our table of discipleship and find food in both the ancient and contemporary.

We have become so oversaturated with oversized everything I believe the shift is one towards intimacy with God and with each other; conversations not just within one parish or denomination or religion, but a table where we can all discuss our love and belief in the “somethingness” of everything in communion.

We are on the precipice of returning to a living embodiment of eucharist; one body, one blood for all–that is us, that is humanity.

Finding the Sacred in the Tiny

And I do see “micro-church” or any kind of micro-faith community or experience as the root of this philosophy–that we must connect to others intimately to find the intimate space for and in and with God inside our own selves.

My “micrio-church” model, which I call “SEEK{ers}” begins with a candle lighting ceremony–a traditional ritual threaded through so many faith lineages. We light our small light off a large candle on the altar, which represents the central light of God (and the three wicks in that candle represent the trinity in the space with us–God, Jesus, and Spirit or more generally God/Parent, Child/Humanity, and the Mystical spirit place where both God and Humanity work to build faith in the living world).

We are each our own small, flickering taper of divinity, lit off a central fire of the divine. In the sacredness of the “small” we are able to connect with that experience in a way that is breathable; it is in the air of sacred space.

Mega has it’s place and in our Western society and construct of bigger as better, it isn’t going anywhere.

But, as physics and the alchemy of grace reminds us, for every action there is an EQUAL and opposite reaction that happens.

It is this balance that keeps the bird on a wire–and a society from collapsing under the weight of extremes.So, while I will find myself, on occassion in a megachurch world, I am, intrinsically, a micro-church girl.And I think we all need to find our balance on the wire of opposites; we must move with the core shift and paradigm change or we will fall right through the cracks.

Spiritual Food

And it seems that people and programs are recognizing that. In my research, making my own worship experience, I went on a virtual pilgrimage to find like-spaces and faces of faith. In that pursuit I found such paradigm-shifters as the Wild Goose Festival (which I wrote aboutHEREandHERE).

I found St Lydia’s “Dinner Church” in Brooklyn, an Episcopal/Lutheran hybrid, and learned that not only does a tree grow there, but also a micro-church (more to come on St. Lydia’s worship). I found the Lutheran “House for All Sinners and Saints” and found resonance in the well-spoken and tattoo sleeved Rev. Natalie Bolz-Weber. I also found the Crossing in Boston, an Episcopal church with a contemplative vibe, and St Gregory’s of Nyssa in San Francisco–the more I searched, the more I found micro-churches cropping up everywhere. And, people coming and being fed by the experience.

There is even a book about the metaphor of feeding and conversion of the heart in parishioner of St. Gregory’s, Sara Miles book Take this Bread. I think the idea of spiritual food in the micro-model is a seamless symmetry. Original church was a meal and most sacred an ancient practices include food in worship. Sara describes it beautifully in her book, saying:

In that shocking moment of communion, filled with a deep desire to reach for and become part of a body, I realized that what I’d been doing with my life all along was what I was meant to do: feed people. And so I did. I took communion, I passed the bread to others, and then I kept going, compelled to find new ways to share what I’d experienced.

I think that is the essence of what we discover in the intimacy of the micro-community–a deep and abiding sense of being fed. There is something so intimate about food and sharing food–literal and metaphoric and divine.

So I conclude this exploration of the small, with the eucharistic words given by my priest in communion : feast in your heart by faith.


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