We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Same & Not

Kittamaqundi Community Church sanctuary
On Sunday, April 15th, my wife Runee & I attended worship at the Kittamaqundi Community Church, Columbia, MD, known affectionately as "KC" to its members.  KC is an independent congregation that began as a house church in the late 1960s.  It is not a large church, having about 70-80 on an average Sunday morning.  On the 15th, the congregation sat at tables of six, and in place of the sermon each table shared in a discussion concerning their reasons for attending worship.  Why bother in our modern age?  Mostly, the discussions became an affirmation of the participants' sense of belonging to KC and its importance to them as a faith community.

Although more than 40 years old, KC continues to be an experimental church in some ways.  It attracts a particular "clientele," namely those for whom more traditional churches no longer work.  It employs a variety of worship approaches, and one person who sat at our table likened it to an "emerging church."

That being said, it was interesting to note a couple of crucial similarities to mainline churches.  First, it is a noticeably aging congregation.  There were only a handful of kids and no younger children at all.  There was no mention of Sunday school or any special program for children.  Perhaps there are things going on that I didn't observe, but the outward appearance of the congregation was a church composed largely of those in their 50s to 70s.  Second, in a chat with one member afterward it was said that the congregation was experiencing a time of resurgence because of its pastor, who has been with them for about five years.  That's good, but evidently KC is pretty much like other  churches, which depend on their pastors for their good, indifferent, or ill fortunes.  As I have noted in a previous posting (here), the problem is that it takes a special kind of pastor to grow a church, and the demand for such pastors is far greater than the supply of them.

The lesson for those of us "out here" in the world of the mainline church is that it is not enough for a church to make changes along the lines of the Kittamaqundi congregation.  Certainly, the worship service we attended was more engaging, more openly participatory, and more of a celebration than what takes place in most churches on most Sunday mornings.  Yet, the one teen I could see seemed disengaged and disinterested—and just one teen is not a fair sample, of course, but she served as a reminder to me that there are no magic bullets in the world of church renewal.  That, I think, was the larger lesson I learned from my visit to KC.  They have something good that is happening, and I really like their style of worship.  But they are located in a setting very different from ours here in the North Country, which meant that I came away with ideas, but not a model—hardly surprising, in retrospect.