by Richard Bass

In the days before his death Archbishop Oscar Romero reminded us that, “The Church is all of us.” In his context it was a call for the Church to recognize it is not an enclave of a privileged few but rather inclusive of all. It also reminds us the Church is an entity that is greater than the sum of its parts and at the same time made up of the strengths and struggles of those individual parts. (A notion that is not dissimilar from the idea of “a church anyone can edit” in Landon Whitsitt’s Open Source Church: Making Room for the Wisdom of All, Alban 2011).

This issue of Congregations has several articles that remind us while the Church has a corporate dimension it is yet deeply personal. As Alice Rogers writes in “Spiritual Identity and Worship Planning,” this is especially true in worship. While each congregation has a dominant corporate spiritual type, its pews are filled with individuals of varied spiritual types that need to be met during worship.

The individuals in the pews do indeed experience life together, but also in the context of their own, personal lives. They each bring their unique personhood to the body as a whole. We are all individuals, including our leaders. The Church is all of us.

Qualities of individuals and what they bring to leadership is the subject of Nancy DeMott’s “Centerview” column. She guides us through the process of seeking the appropriate person to lead a congregation’s planning team.

Jean Alexander reflects on professional boundaries for the minister and his or her private life, particularly during a personal tragedy. At the end of the day, ministers and those we serve are humans that think, feel, and live. How we get through that together is at the heart of church.

The mystery of the Church as body and individuals is also seen in Susan Nienaber’s “Choosing to Heal.” She reminds us that when a congregation struggles with a crisis in leadership, true healing takes time. This is measured in years, not weeks or months. Losing a leader, no matter the circumstance, causes a sense of crisis that beckons for new leaders to emerge and for the congregation to be ready for them.

Tim Dolan’s “So You Think You’re Friendly” looks at what it is that makes a visitor feel welcome at church. He examines the many opportunities (and roadblocks) every church has in this area. There are things the body can do as a whole, but ultimately being a friendly church is the responsibility of all of us. Being friendly is an individual, personal enterprise. It’s about meeting people in the real world of their homes and breaking bread together.

The Church is all of us. The body is both impacted by and has responsibility for the individuals that make up the whole. I hope the articles within help us to keep this mystery in mind as we minister together.


Richard Bass

Congregations, 2011-04-01
Issue 1 2011