So. Today I was thinking on my way to church.
By the end of this week I will have officially lived in Brooklyn for nine months. Which means that this term “my church” has changed a little bit. When I lived in Indiana “my church” was Roselawn Mennonite Church. This was the church I was born and raised in. This was the church my grandparents attended. This was the church I called home.
But in the last nine months I have attended Roselawn a total of seven times. Which is not that many times.
So. When I’m not in Indiana and I’m not at Roselawn I attend Followers of Jesus Mennonite Church (FMJC) in Brooklyn. Which makes sense, since I live in Brooklyn and all.
And sometimes people ask me, especially people from home, what my new church is like. And since I don’t attribute to this theory that one church can be ‘better’ than another I will instead present to you how my two churches are different.
So. In a word. I would describe FMJC as ‘relaxed’ and Roselawn as ‘home.’ But not the kind of relaxed that doesn’t allow reverence and not the kind of home “where your heart is” but rather the kind of home “where you’re from.” Let me explain.
Basically, the most noticeable differences between FJMC and Roselawn are:
1. Structure 2. Community 3. Culture
My Indiana church is an actual church building and is only used as a church building. It has padded pews and classrooms just for Sunday School. We could have a larger area in the entryway to encourage everyone to stay and chat. But really, it is a nice church. My church in Brooklyn is a nice church too. It’s just different. Mostly because the building also functions as a school during the week and we don’t have a full kitchen. We sit on chairs instead of pews and our sanctuary is not carpeted or air conditioned. This difference in structure (in my opinion) accounts for some of the interactive differences I also see in my churches. For example, in Indiana, when church is dismissed, I have to either talk to the people I am sitting by or ask everyone in my pew to file out in order for me to speak with someone else. However, in Brooklyn, if I want to talk to someone I just push the chair aside and make my way to them.
Every church is part of a community, not only the community it surrounds, but the community it creates. In Indiana (almost) everyone’s community includes family, because (almost) everyone has family nearby. Family to help them move into a new home. Family to celebrate Thanksgiving with. Monthly family dinners, Christmas programs, and graduations. These are all things that people do as family. But in Brooklyn, not everyone has a family here. I don’t. I have to rely on someone from my church to be generous enough to let me borrow their car just to get groceries every month. That is not a dynamic that Indiana has. That said, the church here is very fluid. People come and go. Not week by week, but year by year. And the people adjust. And as I adjust to being here they adjust to having me.
The culture is different. Obviously. Because for every person who’s told me, “I could never live in the city,” there are just as many who have said the same of the country. And these people, who navigate to these separate spheres of reality, these people are different from each other. And what they give to the church is different too.
In Indiana my church has a culture that has been cultivated over generations and has found a routine. But in Brooklyn, my church is a mixture of cultures and countries that changes with each added member that attends.
So yes, my churches are different. FMJC starts later, lasts longer, and is louder. It has fewer “Mennonite norms” and more “urban norms” (Norms: group-held beliefs about how members should behave in a given context.) BUT. I want to be clear. My churches are different. But neither of them is ‘better.’ I like the way each of them is, as different as they are. And I don’t want either of them to change. Because ‘the church’ is called to be a part of the body of Christ where is it is at. And where it is will affect how it looks and functions. So, naturally, I don’t expect these churches to be the same.
I think sometimes people would like to say, “if it’s good than everyone should do it and if everyone shouldn’t do it than it’s bad.” But I think for things like church and culture and living within the church and culture- these things cannot be mass-produced. Rather. Christ must be culturally relevant- no matter where you are and what your culture is. (But let’s not confuse ‘culture’ here with sin. Because a culture that allows sin cannot be justified. Just to be clear on that.)
So. Perhaps this is what I like most about my two churches: that I can be part of both of them, despite their differences, because they are BOTH a unique part of The Body.
Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.