catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 21 :: 2011.11.25 — 2011.12.08


Why *cino is not a church

Over the past few months, volunteer staff and board members from *culture is not optional (the “parent” organization of catapult magazine) have been intentionally reflecting and conversing about the structure, language and future of the organization through a process we’ve dubbed “the *cino talks.”  One of our big questions, among many, has been, “Is *cino a church?”

This question has called us to reflect on the role of church in our own lives — our group runs the gamut from a pastor to folks who haven’t attended church in quite some time — and the definition of church in general.  Our first instinct, that *cino is not a church, has borne itself out through conversation.

Interestingly, part of the impetus for starting the organization back in 2001 was a shared sense among a group of recent college expatriates that our local churches weren’t able to feed the hunger for robust, intellectual, artistic faith practice that we’d developed in school.  Our language in those days was often very bold and inflammatory.  Christians needed to redeem the world, every part of it, and if churches weren’t going to do it, we would!

While the passion has remained, it has also, thankfully, matured.  These days, we’re more interested in how we can come alongside the work God is already doing in the world as partners, and we see that work happening all over the place, including in churches.  We’ve come around to loving the Church universal and to appreciating more deeply the foibles of local congregations in the context of our own attempts at building healthy community.

Knowing that the Church is specially charged with proclaiming the Good News in both word and deed, we understand part of *cino’s role as encouraging individual congregations to realize creative possibilities for the lives of their respective memberships and neighborhoods.  We’re not here to fix every church or to provide a church alternative, but to create both virtual and actual space where congregations and individuals can bring their questions and struggles, even if the outcome is simply knowing that there are others dealing with the same issues.  Our best hope is that those who come to our publications, events and space in Three Rivers will feel renewed energy and creativity for the work they are called to do, wherever that may be.

We also see, in our small town context where 50 churches serve a population of just 7,500, a great need for collaboration.  Part of our work going forward will be to figure out what that collaboration might look like structurally as we listen for the various needs, resources and gifts within local churches.  In that spirit, we consider our organization multi-denominational, honoring the best of what each tradition brings to the table.  Also, within our evolving intentional community, it seems fitting for participants to have connections to various congregations according to where they are in their own journeys.   This principle is not a wishy-washy evasiveness about faith commitments, but a hard commitment to embrace each other as we are and to value what people bring to our common conversation from diverse perspectives.  I think we help keep each other honest.

Sometimes, I think things would be easier if *cino were a church.  The term “church” comes with a historic definition (though all baggage is not desirable) and tithing to a church is a common practice that sustains those institutions financially.  And yet we proceed in the collective conviction that we are called to something else — not something more or better, just different.  If the Church is the bride of Christ, then perhaps we are her attendants who watch and wait and work, keeping our lamps trimmed to shine a light on justice and beauty and truth.  In that calling and with great thanksgiving, we trust that what we need is already being provided.

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