I hear often enough that the diversity of people’s interests (professional and otherwise) within a congregation is an asset (only the poor woman or man who works as an accountant often gets stuck being the Council treasurer). We cite other differences in a congregation as a selling point, such as multiple generations: “What other organizations foster on-going inter-generational relationships, besides extended families?” But I’ve been thinking a bit lately about the benefits of specificity, of a faith community with a narrower scope. What if we initiated theological conversations specific to certain professions in order to build a faith community (with some benefits of, and differences from a congregation) for those who have similar stresses, settings for living out their faith, and perhaps investment in acting on their faith in similar arenas?
I’ll give you an example: A faith-based non-profit builds schools or libraries, or sponsors school fees for children in an under-developed part of the world. A cohort of teachers, school staff and administrators in this country could be transformed by forming a relationship with one such school. We could do Bible Study on both ends, sharing insights between teachers and students here and there. Through the wonders of the internet, we could share video clips of ourselves, hopes, prayers and perhaps even create a project together such as Christmas cards or a seasonal devotional book. We’d fill Bible Study with stories of Rabbi Jesus teaching, or saying “Let the little children come to me.” Maybe we try cooking something from the other culture, and have a meal “together.” But it would all be about the vocations of teachers and students.
Or maybe medical professionals would be interested in engaging with a faith-based clinic or nursing school. Bible study or devotions shared across the miles could focus on healing stories, or even poetry from the Song of Solomon about the beauty of bodies. Perhaps the hospice departments would have spiritual insights about caring for people faithfully, through to the end. There would be room for conversation too about burnout in the profession and what it is to be, like Jesus, a wounded healer.
When a natural disaster occurs, “Disaster Theology” events that fund-raise, share best practices for response, de-bunk bad theology and lay out helpful theology would feed my soul. And while the regular church-goers need to hear it too, certainly, those who live well outside the sphere of influence of any congregation need helpful “disaster theology.” Cataclysmic weather events happen frequently enough (thanks global warming) that a faith community could form around raising awareness, helpful theology, and responding appropriately whether the floods are in Texas or India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Such a project wouldn’t be church, by some definitions: without regular worship or sacraments. But that is also the appeal! Community-building with faith, meaningful theological discussion, and challenges to reach beyond our own spheres for the sake of the Holy Spirit working sounds like what I actually need from church. Some of us are ready for less church and more direct action on our specific concerns because of our faith.