I'm reading an inspiring book right now called CHRISTIANITY FOR THE REST OF US, by Diana Bass. I've read a number of books by Bible scholars over the years, which I've really enjoyed and learned A LOT from. But, this book is different. The author grew up in a mainstream Methodist church that she ended up feeling lukewarm about as an adult. This is the story of her research project that involved traveling extensively around the country looking for thriving churches that were NOT Evangelical or Pentecostal. She strictly avoided megachurches. She spent three years attending churches of a number of denominations: Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and United Church of Christ. The requirement was that the church was thriving. What she was looking for was a congregation which was: multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-racial, even mix of Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, where gays and lesbians are welcome, homeless people are welcome (and lovingly fed at the church), church doctrine and rules are openly discussed and DEBATED, scripture is up for questioning, with no one saying "this is what this means, and if you don't agree you aren't one of us", there is abundant silence in their services, and the congregation shares their testimonies. There's ritual and ceremony and celebration. There is an active healing ministry... hands on, not just through prayer. EVERYONE is welcome as they are... no exceptions. Hospitality is central. Never "everyone but us is going to hell". Working for justice is a vital activity of the church. Here is the list of churches that the author found were stellar examples of what she was looking for: (I would love to check them all out.) Redeemer, New Haven, CT Goleta Presbyterian, Goleta CA Calvin Presbyterian,Zelienople, PA Cornerstone, Naples, FL St Mark, Yorktown, VA Phinney Ridge, Seattle, WA Redeemer, Cincinnati, OH Epiphany, Washington, DC Iglesia Santa Maria, Falls Church, VA
In all, there were about 50 churches that the author attended and researched. The above churches fit the author's criteria the best, but there were many other excellent ones, according to her. (She listed them all in her book.) If I went to church, it would probably be one of those. However, I don't live anywhere near any of them! But, it's heartening to me to know that they exist, and who knows? Maybe one is in our town or nearby. Or maybe one will spring up. I'm keeping my ears open and my fingers crossed.