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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Family Supper

Last night at our Thursday Late Nite worship we were able to discern a few values that God has brought into our community. Here's what so astounded me about what the Holy Spirit was able to accomplish last evening: 21 people, in fifteen-twenty minutes were able to agree on three values for our community...Amazing! (I've known four people to spend an hour trying to decide where to eat lunch.) Interestingly, even though they were able to speak of three values, taking into consideration the thoughts and experiences of each of us..."cooperation" was not one of the values. (This leads me to believe there are two kinds of values latent in every community: one kind, I'll call the "centering" values, are those that center a community, and gather it in a particular time and place. The second set, I'll call them "operational" are values that arise from the practices of the community. "Cooperation" in this case is an operational value. What we were discerning was "centering" values.)
In my experience, most congregations spend little time on centering values. What usually happens is that some creed, liturgy, list of fundamentals or something carries these values for congregations. However, no creed, liturgy, or list of anything is value-free. Therefore, the values espoused by most congregations are so culturally-laden and context-driven that they speak more about the congregation's agenda than the value itself. What I mean by this can be seen in a value we discerned last night: "Family."
For most congregations, family carries with it the cultural overtones of USA in the 21st Century. That is, most Christian groups that espouse family, have as a value a CERTAIN kind of family. The generous congregations amongst us, allow for different kinds of families, but nonetheless, the value is often not "family," but the "certain kind" of family. What is ironic is that they claim to have "family values" without actually valuing "family."
"Family," for Prairie Table is not just a Dad, a Mom, and 2 kids, but rather a value. How family is a value is precisely what makes Mom, Dad, and the kids irrelevant to family as a value. That is, what makes "family" is trust, cooperation, listening, patience, love, care, and concern, etc. Because for Prairie Table "family" is a communal virtue (a nod to our Roman Catholic readers, and Thomists everywhere), it is irrelevant to us what the family looks like. So, for example, the single people could affirm the value without demeaning their familial status. The married heterosexuals could affirm the value without glorifying their current familial status. And although last night we did not have any non-traditional families who regularly worship with us, if they carry the value of family they are part of our community. Remember, we seek family as a "value," not a set of "values" based on a certain kind of family. If a group of people, gathering around love, trust, cooperation, mutual accountability, etc, participate with Prairie Table, that group demonstrates family as a value.
Because Prairie Table does not make someone fit into a certain kind of family in order to be part of Prairie Table; Prairie Table can hold family as a value without reducing it to a liturgy or list of "things we believe." Because, as astute readers already have discerned, "family" is just another word for "relationship." That is, relationships that are filled with trust, cooperation, love, care, concern, mutual accountability, etc. is "family." Prairie Table is always about relationships, and last night the Spirit of God proved it to us again...it's almost as if we were family.

1 comment:

Beth Sadler said...

Ok PS, I found your blog. I am hooked.