Thin places

From Conference Minister Rich Pleva…The church of Jesus Christ has an unbroken history that stretches back 2000 years. 

But that observation can be highly misleading.  That which folk recognized (and loved!) as church 500 years ago would be nearly unrecognizable as church to folk of today AND to folk of 500 years before that! 

Yes…the church has a long, unbroken history, but the shape and form of church has always been changing.

The Iowa Conference is helping support a new UCC church start in Coralville/North Liberty.  It’s not going to look like any existing congregation in the conference.  Read more about it in this report from Chuck Kelsey, the organizing pastor of Journey UCC.

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A Thin Place of Community…from Chuck Kelsey, organizing pastor of Journey Church

I’m sitting at a round, barstool-style table at a coffee shop on a Friday morning. I’m writing this on my laptop while across from me, putting her laptop to creative use, is my wife Sue. It feels a bit like we are playing “Battleship.”

I have long been a student of the coffee shop/cafe’ movement. I experience it as a manifestation of the Kingdom of God. People, all sorts of different people, gathered in loose community. There are different agendas of course, but the low buzz is a comforting sound of relationships happening and wanting to happen.

What I wonder, as I observe the movements of life-interaction here, is, why does the Church struggle so to offer similar sanctuaries of comfort? It feels, at times, that our spaces housing our “religious” activities are way too much of a straight-row, dress ‘em up, quiet ‘em down, don’t-enjoy-too-much, Sunday-morning-only, space. As opposed to being a “thin place” where the “veil” between the holy and the ordinary is translucent, giving us insight into God’s Kingdom of now.

Mindie Burgoyne writes in a blog: “Thin Places are ports in the storm of life, where the pilgrims can move closer to the God they seek, where one leaves that which is familiar and journeys into the Divine Presence. They are stopping places where men and women are given pause to wonder about what lies beyond the mundane rituals, the grief, trials and boredom of our day-to-day life. They probe to the core of the human heart and open the pathway that leads to satisfying the familiar hungers and yearnings common to all people on earth, the hunger to be connected, to be a part of something greater, to be loved, to find peace.”

What if we were to marry the concept of the Church with that of the coffee cafe’? What would it look like if there was a thin place to stop for a while and share in both the hopes and the travails of the journey with others?

Could it be the Church both new and renewed?

Journey UCC is a new church for Coralville, Iowa and it is my hope and prayer that it will provide a thin place for those who currently have no affiliation with a church. Progressive in our beliefs, passionate in our worship, probing in our spirituality, Journey is more than a Sunday morning. Following the teachings of Jesus, we also draw upon the diverse spiritual wisdom of other traditions as we explore, celebrate, and live out our faith.

Currently being birthed in coffee shops, rec centers, on forest paths, and anywhere else people are willing to seek the holy, Journey is a place to discover companions to pray with, play with, and compassionately interact with as we encounter the Sacred One.

Chuck Kelsey’s contact info: chuck.kelsey@gmail.com.

The church website is: churchjourney.org

 

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