Thursday, August 27, 2009

Phone Book Church-anomics

(Or how to define criteria to help you choose a church, which is more helpful than looking at phone book ads.)

I really wish I could remember how the conversation got started. Old dead philosophers were involved, and complex philosophical and theological terms too. (Oddly enough, we were driving down to see the philosopher's sister when this came up. Most of these types of deep conversations occur when we're hiking, so that in and of itself is unusual.) I think maybe Augustine was involved (he usually is) and perhaps some Macintyre too. But don't hold me to that.

Anyway, what stuck with me after the conversation what what we were talking about towards the end - what aspects of a church are "necessary" to us, and what aspects are merely "important"? In other words, if you had to choose from among less-than-ideal churches, how do you organize the criteria?

What showed up on my lists? (I'm a librarian, of COURSE I make lists!) I'll list what I can remember. There was much more, I know. But it's nearly the weekend after a very long week, and my brain is mushy to the point of running out my ears. So I'll hit the high points and make weak promises to post more at some vague future time!

In the 'Necessary' Column

Preaching Christ Crucified
Biblically sound

In the 'Important' Column
Follows the church year
Good music (more traditional than contemporary)
Liturgically based
Vibrant small groups & Sunday school

I feel like I at least have some of my priorities in the right order; that the preaching and teaching is more important than the music, for example. But I also realized that there are some "extraneous" things that really are important to me, and fall closer to the "necessary" category than perhaps they should. So it's been a good exercise, and I'm sure it will come up again in our musings together.

The philosopher's lists were decidedly more.... philosophical. And theological. And granular. Which is why I won't try to reproduce them here. But if we end up on the Pinhoti one of these days and this topic comes up again, I plan to pull out my steno pad and take some notes!


J said...

I've got a couple items in my "necessary" list that probably ought to be in my "important" list - at least mentally I say they are "important" characteristics, but in real life I suspect they play out more as a necessity.

In your wanderings searching for a church, please do keep up the descriptions of the different services. I thoroughly enjoy them.

Might I suggest a Lutheran church? I can't say I have very high opinions of the Lutherans I have interacted with personally, but in theory they have a solid theological foundation and are more or less traditional in the church-year sort of way. At least the more conservative splinters are.

I guess it's a case of "good luck" finding a Lutheran church down South, though.

If you make it that far down the list of churches to try, I have a perverse anticipation of your experience with a strongly Pentecostal church. In mannerisms at least, I can't imagine a much further step from stereotypical Episcopalian styles of church services.

J said...

Ahhh, and I wrote that and now I run across the big ELCA-gay-pastor-vote-judged-by-a-tornado thing.

Ok, so maybe the ELCA flavor of Lutheran doesn't qualify for traditional. Maybe one of the other alphabet soup groups.

Zana said...

Yeah - I heard about that last weekend. ELCA is following the path of the Episcopal Church. If we could find a LCMS close that might be an option, but as you said, not so much in the deep south!

As an aside, I shared your comment about a pentecostal church with the philosopher. He laughed and reiterated that he'd like to visit a Greek Orthodox, but would not commit to anything else. ::heh::