First Third Conversations

Space to be Church: A Reflection on Ryan Bolger's Presentation

Sandy TroyanBy Sandy Troyan, MA Children, Youth and Family senior at Luther Seminary

Conversation on the First Third of Life

The conversation is alive, yet holds two dominate perspectives:

- I am aware that the world around me is different. Things look different. People are different. And the very nature of our wants and needs are much different.

- I am aware of the world around me. This is the way things have always been. The people are like I always remember. And the very nature of my wants and needs seem to be never changing.

These two voices are present and hold authority in the world around us.

The divide has been created, recognized and needs to be accepted and understood too. These two perspectives approach the world in unique ways. There are two separate languages being used. Things are defined differently, without an understanding of the other.

And there we were. We spent two days looking at all of this from a perspective that many see being very distant from the conversation. We look at these perspectives as the church.

The church looks to be an intersection between the world and those around them. We need to be part of the conversation. Not as aliens. Not as immigrants. Not as natives. But as the church. We need to see that the changing voices around us are not a figment of our imagination. We know that 60% fewer marriages are in the church. And we know that fewer Americans are identifying as Christians.

We are constantly bombarded with the question, What must change? How can we return to what we use to know? The challenge is how do we enter the conversation with hope.

Here is the Hope

Ryan Bolger brought a voice to the conversation by calling us to a new community.

He states that religion was to create space away from the secular. And culture has had the ability to push the church further and further away, creating a fragmented society. Bolger notes that this was the goal of modernity. Interestingly enough post-modernity attempts to do just the opposite. It hopes to bring the different spheres back together. It attempts to live into the chaos of life connected.

This attempt to live into the chaos of life as religion is referred to as the holistic church. The holistic church realizes that the modern church has only dealt with the religious part of their lives. People desire something different. They need their worlds to be reconnected.

An addition, because of our technological capabilities, place is no longer dominant. Space is dominant, for we can share space with individuals without place. We can now begin to create a mutual space in a world where place can actually often be forgotten.

Bolger challenges us to take this idea when we think of the church. What would it mean to be a church of flows? To be a people of God that is beyond place?

I wonder what that church would look like?

A Searching People

Bolger also stated that we are a searching culture. Whether it be searching the internet for an answer or searching for inner peace, we are searching.

I am lead to believe that we are all searching for the kind of community that could be present in the holistic church. All people desire to be heard. The sixteen year old who only understands the world through the relationships she has via her phone is as unique a space as the retired school teacher who often feels like the world around her is being transformed. This space that we are creating, this church of flows, creates space for both of these individuals. The immigrant and the native are invited and welcomed because the space has been created for both of them.

Being searching people means looking for what is the truth and authentic. Our stories are authentic, and we are called to share that authentic narrative with the other. In a world were we are asked to create our identity without eye contact, alone and by ourselves, this pushes us further. This challenges us to nurture the thing we are missing, the pieces coming together.

We are allowing ourselves to live in the authentic chaos of our lives. We don’t abandon technology and culture, for they come with us. We are not the modern church living with an understanding that the church must live outside of culture.  Our narrative lives in and with culture. The Gospel of incarnation lives in and with culture. As we live into our connection with the narratives of others and the Gospel, we begin to see the beautiful chaos of the church unfold around us.

previous main next