What is Church? Why Church? Part 8


Today I have included a fairly wide variety of responses to the questions What is Church? And Why Church? First I give you a number of six-word answers from a broad age range. Next a NYTimes article about how atheists are forming communities to share rituals that churches usually perform. And lastly we hear from three different clergy women of various backgrounds. Enjoy and ponder all of this. What would your answer be. Next installment will be my answer to this question!


Six-Word Answers

Community Celebrates Mourns Sinners Forgiven Grace-full

Messy Community Life-Together Dogmatism Hope Interpretation



Walls to break through, and rebuild

Make God visible in sacrificing love

A Place within for personal worship

All that is will ever be


Atheists and Church-like Rituals




Three clergy women answer the question

What is Church? By an African American clergy woman, baby boomer (in her fifties)

Church is the faithful and disloyal me, the strong and the weak me, the refreshed and the weary me, the full and the empty me engulfed in God’s Holy Spirit seeking to hear God’s voice and to do his will.



“ Why church?”  Ellen Duffield, a pastor in Canada, also a Ph.d who is a specialist on women and leadership in the church. Ellen is in her fifties.

Some 35 years into a life journey with Jesus Christ I have so often reflected on this … especially while serving as the (female) pastor of an evangelical church … experiencing first hand how flawed and pain filled/inducing the church is … hearing every reason other’s felt we were redundant.

Having played skeptical observer, enthusiastic participant, struggling leader, disillusioned ‘walk-awayer’ and hesitant returnee I get the spectrum of possible human responses. Yet none of these personal experiences really carries sufficient weight to base, what turns out to be, such a momentous decision upon.

To reflect on church is to reflect on what it means to be a present day gathering of the thousands of years old people of God. To consider what it is to be a community of believers who so often absentmindedly limps along -or worse yet, deliberately and defiantly abuses our potential influence – and then suddenly shows up with compassion, healing power, truth or genuine faith.

It is to reflect on what God could possibly have been thinking when He chose the church as the Body and Bride for His Beloved Son; or designed us such that we need each other’s gifts and insights to fully live the promised abundant life.

It is to seek out world views beyond our individualistic, consumerism and results oriented one…realizing we could learn so much from those who more intuitively create the safety nets of extended families and communities… and the richness of traditions that root and unite us.

And it is to reflect on what it means that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection broke down the dividing walls and that the Spirit, unwieldy stone by stone, is building a home for God and us on that very spot, with those very pieces.

The church stands as the God-ordained opportunity for people of all kinds to come together to remember He is worthy to be praised, and worth loving each other for.

Into our beautiful yet broken world God places the church.  His instrument of reconciliation and redemption. Why? That is well beyond the scope of my limited insight to assess. And yet there it is. And here we are. And God help us be that church.

One thing I do know, it will take all of us using our diverse gifts, ‘cause that’s just the way it works.”



What is Church? Danielle Jones, Minister of Congregational Life, Colonial Church, Edina. Danielle is in her forties.

My parents gave me my very first experience of church.  Both of my parents were committed to church when I was a kid.  We were that family that went to church every single Sunday.  A lot of weeks we even went and served at our church on Saturdays- cleaning the sanctuary, putting cookies on trays for the coffee hour, and helping to prepare things for Sunday morning.  Church felt like an extension of home to me.  A place I liked to be. A place full of kind people in fancy clothes doing things together.

The first place I learned how to really live out church was at camp.  From 4th grade through my college years there was not a summer that went by that I did not spend, at the very least, one week at camp.  To me- camp was a week long experience in church.  It was real, dirty, active, community focused and a whole lot of fun.  I could be myself at camp- playing outside, singing songs in worship, doing silly skits, and asking my counselors honest questions about God and their faith as I tried to figure out what I believed.  Camp gave me a taste for true community.  Living together in a dirty old cabin brought out the best and the worst of all of us with Christ at the center.

The first place I questioned the need for church was when I was in seminary- oddly enough.  My first two years at Fuller Theological Seminary I struggled to find a church.  I visited churches but I often sat alone and wasn’t welcomed by very many people.  Needless to say- this led to a bit of a church crisis for me.  I was after all preparing to go into full-time ministry.  If I couldn’t get connected in church then why would I work in a church?  In that period of my life I realized that for me- church and service are intimately connected.  If I did not have a reason to serve at a given church it was difficult for me to meet people and feel like church was my home.  I was finally able to connect to a church when a friend of mine invited me to help him with the college ministry that he was leading.  This “in” gave me the chance to connect, get involved, and serve.

In these days the place I most like to celebrate church is in smaller gatherings.  Our church serves a meal on Wednesday night and I love to sit around the table, talk to people, and eat together- to me, that is church.  I am a part of a small group of women that share how God is working in our lives and pray for each other on a regular basis while pushing one another to go deeper in faith- to me, that is church.  My husband and I also meet with four other couples monthly to share a meal, talk about the Bible, and ponder tough questions- to me, that is church.

For me- church is honest questions asked and pondered.  Church is sharing a meal and some laughter while encouraging one another.  Church is studying scripture and reflecting on my life by asking the question “where do I see God at work?”  Church is safe, honest and real.  Church is my home.