For many years I dreamed of starting a new church. My new church would be different in that it would be practical and little time at the new church would be spent debating things we could never fully know or understand and anybody, regardless of their spiritual state of being, could find a home there. I even had a name for the new church: The Church of Christian Simplicity.
CCS would not require ordained clergy, would spend very little time on pomp and circumstance and would invite every member of the church to play a role or roles. The primary goal of CCS would be to return to what I guessed was what the early church looked like-plain, ordinary people trying to figure out what this Jesus Way was about and how to live it.
CCS might put robes on their worship leaders, sometimes, and would have candles and processions and use the Bible as a primary source of wisdom. But the object of worship would be to give members of the church a chance to spend time together, find out what is going on in their lives, and attend a worship service that gave them something to take home, to use, to make real to them. The preaching would be simple -meaningful stuff people could understand, absorb, make part of their lives.
The Church of Christian Simplicity would be about joy much more than God’s condemnation. Worship would be creative and improvisation would be a rule not an exception. Some worship would remain serious, and formal, communion for example. I didn’t see CCS taking away the grandeur of worship or of being in communion during communion. But that grandeur would not dominate and would not be so difficult to follow that new people would be scared away. Anybody, at any time, new or old, would be able to immediately participate in worship the day they walked through the door.
I dreamed the new church would be welcoming, really, really welcoming. People coming to CCS would immediately feel at home, and even the simplest of acts, like the coffee hour, would become a part of the service and might even last as long as the service. Members of CCS would not see Sunday as an obligation; they would see it as a chance to worship God, see their friends, break bread together and get sustenance, as a result, for the week ahead.
The decisions at CCS would be made by the full congregation and the leader would be more ‘cruise director’ than Priest. The congregation would run the congregation. The bottom line hope for the new church was that a small group of people would take their religion seriously, would become true followers of ‘the Way,’ would try hard to make their religion their lifestyle. I saw CCS as an oasis of calm in the theological hurricane that is the modern church and world today.
I’m a little embarrassed to say I spent a lot of time planning the church but never did anything about it. I have notebooks full of outlines, and descriptions and plans for the new church. But alas, I never put any of those plans to work. Nothing ever came of it. I used to kick myself for my laziness.
But not any more. I realized yesterday, Advent 4, after a service led by a lay-person with a Christmas pageant written by the Sunday School director, and a service with more improvisation than most churches have in an entire year, that the Church of Christian Simplicity has become reality and it is Christ Church.
Truth is, in two short years, we have fulfilled the dream of creating a new kind of church. Inside the walls of our beautiful, 150 year old church, any and all immediately experience the heart of what Jesus called us to: to love one another in a simple, loving manner. We have become CCS.
On Christmas Eve I will speak about becoming ‘agents of Emmanuel’ in my message. I will call on all of us to see the incarnation as a present tense situation, not just something that took place two thousand years ago. In my message I will call the entire congregation to recommit to our simple way of love by becoming active members of God’s incarnation on earth.
We have started that process at Christ Church but still have work to do don’t we? We will do that work. Together, unified, simply loving Jesus as he loved us.
I write this reflection at the end of the year to say thank you. To say how much I love our little church and the people that make up that church. How much joy you have given me by providing the chance to live a dream I have had for a long time: The Church of Christian Simplicity.
God bless you all and Merry Christmas.