Mary H. Lee-Clark
Since Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in the 4th century of the Common Era, the Christian Church has been part of The Establishment, at least in the West. That has been both a blessing and a curse--a blessing, in that it has allowed Christians to worship openly and freely, a curse in the sense that power has all too often corrupted and distorted the original message of Jesus. Streams within the Christian tradition have all along witnessed to the alternative notion of power as serving, as sacrificing self-centered desires, as standing alongside the powerless and witnessing for justice.
United Church of Christ Pastor Robin Meyers has written a book entitled, "The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus," urging the church to "recapture the spirit of the early church," before we became part of the establishment. He challenges his readers to imagine what such a church might look like.
"So just imagine [Meyers writes]
* A church where women are truly equal to men, and never patronized.
* A church where straights and gays worship together as children of God.
* A church where following Jesus is just as important as worshiping Christ.
* A church where trying to discern what Jesus taught us about God is more important than arguing over what the church has taught us about Jesus
* A church where we earn our tax-exempt status by giving space back to the communities we serve in ways that create community and bring people into true fellowship with one another.
* A church where learning is not subversive and science is not the enemy of faith.
* A church where fear is never an instrument of religious conversion or conversation.
* A church where the enemy is not death but rather our failure to truly live
* A church where we tend the small garden we have been given and do not participate in the murder of creation .
* A church where being rich means having everything you need instead of everything you want.
* A church where there is no acceptable alternative to hope, no substitute for joy, and no excuse not to offer the same unconditional love to others that has been so freely lavished on us."
We at Second Congregational Church, UCC, in our commitment to follow in the way of Jesus, try to be such a church. We're not perfect and probably never will be. There are other things on Meyers' list that we'd like to say we are but can't yet. We know it's a journey. We welcome companions on that journey, "whoever you are, wherever you are on life's journey, you are welcome here," we say each Sunday morning. And we gladly walk alongside other communities of faith who share the vision of God's realm made real on earth, where all are welcome, where all have enough to live, where all come to know themselves as beloved children of God.
The Rev. Mary H. Lee-Clark is pastor of Second Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Bennington.