Thursday, July 16, 2009

Organic Church Manifesto

Organic over canned. Dialogue over doctrine. Poetry over creeds. Fluidity over structure. Spirituality over programs. Practical over abstract. Inclusive over exclusive. Fun over formal. Joyfulness over sullenness. Visual over wordy. Real over flowery. Open over reclusive. People over buildings. Present over past. Doable over theoretical. Interactive over cloistered. Circles over rectangles. Pentecostal over contrived. Chairs over pews. Comprehensive over lectionary. Movement over stagnation. Contextual over universal. Passion over solemness. Invitation over coercion. Nonviolent over harmful. Loving over distant. Justice over inequity. Mutuality over hierarchy. Now over later. Swivel chairs over large pulpits. Cultural competence over cultural imperialism. Tossed salad over melting pot. Navigating ambiguity over forcing certainty. Bible discussions over Bible classes. Restorative justice over condemning judgment. Artistic expression over barren staleness. Local engagement over systemic outrage. Communal salvation over individual salvation. Facilitative leadership over dictatorial CEO-ship. Relational church over mega church. Holistic mission over limited engagement. Diverse music over singular genre. Varied liturgies over repetitive liturgies. Spiritual groups over work committees. Youth engagement over youth estrangement. Brain-storming over narrow-mindedness. Revolving power over stationary power. Dynamic verbs over static nouns. Creation-centered over Creation-excluded. Townhall meetings over monologue speeches. Modern-yet-ancient over contemporary-yet-1980s. Celebration-through-lament over suffering-through-masking. Theologian-of-all-believers over pontifications-from-on-high. Etc.

This "organic church manifesto" has radical implications for the Church. It calls for revolutionary change and deep reformation. How far do we take these ideas?
A.N. Whitehead seems to speak to this question: "[Churches] require some element of novelty to relieve their massive inheritance from a bygone system. Order is not sufficient. What is required, is something much more complex. It is order entering upon novelty; so that the masses of order does not degenerate into mere repetition; and so that the novelty is always reflected upon a background of system…The art of progress is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order.” Whitehead suggests that we need both order and change; tradition and reformation; roots and wings. Combining established tradition with revolutionary change is difficult work. It requires that we move ahead carefully, prayerfully, and collaboratively. Together we must discern the best way to move forward so can effectively and relevantly be the Church in the postmodern world.

These organic elements will all come to fruition differently in each location. It's all contextual. And it will all look different based on a community's needs, cultures, and spiritualities. Here are some examples of people who are applying these revolutionary ideas in their communities, all-the-while staying rooted in the traditions of the wider Church: Holden Village, Iona Community, Liberation Christian Church, Saint Brendan's Celtic Community, Saint Gregory's Church, Trinity UCC, Saint Sabina, House For All, Solomon's Porch, Vintage Faith, Jacob's Well, Church of the Apostles, and the Taize Community. There are also many house churches that are doing some amazing ministry. Hopefully these creative communities continue to grow and thrive!


  1. Wonderful! I think the United Church of Christ also holds up many of these ideals in many of its churches. Thank peace, Cara Hochhalter

  2. Inspiring - as in, I feel filled with Spirit just reading these images. Wondering how to take what you help me glimpse into the life of my congregation. Thank you.

  3. We in the Maine Conference in the UCC are going to be featuring the "emergent church" as a topic for our next annual meeting-- your blog is a good place to find ideas! thanks

  4. Our small UCC congregation launched an online worship community last February that is fluid and challenges what "church" means to people. We also started a Progressive Christian gathering monthly with words of wisdom from many walks of life, music, a featured artist and a justice speaker...and appetizers. We call it in "Be the church in the world". We don't just tell people what is happening in the world but we encourage them to go out and do justice. We are getting ready to have our third monthly meeting this week, weather permitting. We meet in a banquet room of a restaurant rather than a church building. This is how Bethel UCC in Cahokia Illinois is trying to go organic.