Dollhouse for Future Seminarians?
The first time I saw this 1950s architectural prototype of our church, I thought it was cute in a kitschy sort of way. But I'm beginning to wonder if it also works as a convicting symbol. Like many other mainline congregations, ours constructed a large facility in the 1950s when church attendance was at an all-time high. Nowadays, many of these churches rent out unused Sunday School and meeting rooms to external non-profit organizations. They simply don't have the level of lay participation to maintain all the ministries of days past.
This miniature replica, encased as it is in glass, is rendered irrelevant by its isolation. It may as well be an exhibit in a museum, displayed next to entomological specimen. The building of an institution that is intended to be missional, inclusive, and culture-transforming is portrayed as a relic, protected from the outside world. Nothing can enter, and nothing can exit.
Thankfully, the full-scale model of our congregation doesn't exist as if surrounded by glass. But I think the tendency is always there to want to keep the carpet clean and the hymns traditional. Once that glass envelope descends, we can't grasp the hands of people in need, we can't learn the stories of our neighbors, we can't discern injustice in the world.
I'm not going to take a hammer at this glass, and not just because I'm a nice girl who doesn't vandalize. It's too powerful a reminder of the moral bankruptcy of isolationist faith.
Posted by Katherine Willis Pershey