Perkatory: The Principles and Practices of My Dream Church

This is part of a series I’m writing about My Dream Church. My Dream Church is a Cafe Church (not a church with a cafe). See the Introduction here.

medieval-castle-84336_1280A church is only as good as the principles on which it stands. I want to be part of a church whose principles I am proud to recite and uphold. Our principles are based on our beliefs about who we are and they guide how we operate. So what principles would guide the ministry and function of My Dream Church?

The principles of My Dream Church are Grace, Generosity, Connectionalism, Devotion, Justice and Compassion. These principles would drive the operations of My Dream Church, a Cafe Church I am calling Perkatory.

The Principle of Grace

Grace is the understanding that God loves us in spite of our unloveliness. God is aware of sin in our lives and in our world. God is troubled by the sin and is saddened by the separation our sin causes. God counters that separation with grace. Grace is God’s first action toward sinful creation. And as John Wesley teaches, it is grace that even allows us to say Yes to God. (The Witness of the Spirit I). My Dream Church, Perkatory, would strive to share God’s grace with others through the practices of hospitality and gentleness

  • The Practice of Hospitality
    • A comfortable place to rest; quality, healthy food and drink; and cheerful, helpful staff.
    • During events, helping people engage in worship, access service and study opportunities and participate in the artistic offerings of the cafe.
    • Hospitality is the non-verbal invitation by which people enter into the discipleship scheme of the church.
    • See: Pashtunwali
  • The Practice of Gentleness
    • A soft-heartedness and a softness in Perkatory’s approach to its purpose.
    • Staff and leaders are patient and helpful.
    • Invitations to events are courteous and enticing, never harsh, but respectful of others’ freedom to choose.
    • Even when the church endeavors to address tough matters of prophetic importance, we would strive to make room for everyone.
    • See: Pema Chodron

The Principle of Generosity

I don’t envision Perkatory making any money. In fact, Perkatory being financially viable is a piece I am incapable of assuring. It’s out of the scope of this series anyway. But I do envision Perkatory giving away a lot of money and goods. The church has a calling to be cheerfully unattached to stuff. Of course, others do need stuff. I envision a time when we don’t have to confess to having “not heard the cries of the needy”, because hearing their cries and responding in love is an accomplished purpose. I share this principle with a real nervousness, knowing how often I refuse to make eye-contact with the man with a cardboard sign on the corner. I wish I were generous, but I am not.

  • The Practice of Regarding the Poor
    • A sliding scale so all can access the cafe.
    • Include poor in leadership and visioning of the church
    • Build Regard for the Poor into the discipleship scheme of the church.
    • See: Sisters of the Road
  • The Practice of Service
    • Service is the expression of generosity which uplifts others.
    • A graduated service commitment is written into the Disipleship scheme.
    • The graduated disciple embraces the image of their “cup overflowing” and is freed to share God’s grace with others.
    • See: Sierra Service Project

The Principle of Connectionalism

Connectionalism is one of United Methodism’s most powerful witnesses. I love that we have spiritual and tangible connections to one another. I have felt the power of the connection in my mission service life. I have felt it in my pastoral life. And I have a legitimate problem with autonomous churches that have no accountability to the larger Christian body. While I envision Perkatory being its own beast, I see it embracing a life of deep relationship building. Deep relationship building is the heart of connectionalism and would be at the heart of Perkatory’s discipleship scheme. We ultimately want people to have deep loves: for God, themselves, each other and creation. Connectionalism is the principle by which those loves are formed and developed.

  • The Practice of Partnering
    • Building as many partnerships as possible. Building those partnerships as deeply as possible. It would be a sport for us.
    • Build partnerships so everyone can serve.
    • Build partnerships help the church get back into the service game where it belongs and has an important perspective to offer.
    • See: The Oregon Public House
  • The Practice of Diversity
    • Diversity is the practice of connectionalism on a personal level.
    • Build diversity into the leadership of the church.
    • Utilize art as a means of Practicing Diversity
    • Embrace the full spectrum of the human family.
    • Get divergent people in the same room to connect.
    • See: Glide Memorial Church

The Principle of Devotion

The church exists to help people love God with all they have and love their neighbors as themselves. Devotion means heartfelt commitment to God and others. Helping people find the soft heart that loves effusively remains a top priority for the church. That is as true for a traditional church as it is for an alternative one like Perkatory. So Perkatory must operate from the heart and that heart must be in tune with God and attentive to the needs of others. Perkatory would practice devotion by striving to be more in love with God, neighbor and self and by trusting in God for the administrative functioning of the church.

  • The Practice of Striving for Perfection
    • Perfection means total love of God, neighbor self and creation.
    • It encompasses Wesley’s understanding of God, his understanding of humanity and his penchant for discipline.
    • Discipleship scheme challenges people to love more and more deeply.
    • Through service, justice-keeping, worship and class meetings, the concept of God’s deep love for us calling us to a deep love of God is a central purpose.
    • See: The Center for Courage and Renewal
  • The Practice of Relying on God
    • Devotion on an organizational level
    • Operating the church with an assumption of God’s favor, until we hear otherwise.
    • Building partnerships because we think God wants us to build partnerships.
    • It means approaching donors and supporters because we trust God and God’s people to provide what we need to be fruitful.
    • It means approaching people with gifts we need and not being afraid to ask.
    • It means being transparent about our finances and our stewardship of resources.
    • See: REI Stewardship Report

The Principle of Justice

I believe the prophetic function of the church too often takes a backseat to pastoral and administrative functions. I want to be part of a church that has prophetic courage as well as pastoral reliability. So My Dream Church would be committed to justice. Justice in a Christian sense means restoring right relationships that have been broken due to systemic sin. Can a church be both prophetic and gentle? A gentle and just church is like a reed in the wind which bends as necessary but remains rooted in the soil. The bending reed resists breaking by being flexible and strong at the same time. The prophetic function of My Dream Church is the strong end of the reed which allows others’ their freedom yet knows when resistance is necessary. Justice is the way we love neighbors who are suffering under others’ unrelenting sin. I believe that churches are legitimized when they embrace their prophetic calling. At Perkatory this calling would take the forms of bridge-building and solidarity.

  • The Practice of Bridge-building
    • Proactive way to counter injustices in our world.
    • Recognizes and mourns divisions between people.
    • Hopefully looks to make connections which overcome those divisions.
    • Bridge-building is loving our neighbors on a group level.
    • Bridge-building would happen deliberately through worship, service and community forums.
    • Bridge-building honors differences and seeks commonalities.
    • See: Interfaith Youth Corps
  • The Practice of Solidarity
    • Solidarity is a necessary function of justice.
    • Prophetic people and entities pay witness to a just God when they stand with those suffering from the ongoing sins of others.
    • Solidarity built into the Discipleship scheme.
    • Examples
      • Welcoming the poor at the cafe without judgment
      • Forums on challenges to the community
      • Teaching justice-keeping
      • Promoting the dignity of the downtrodden through art.
    • See: Highlander Research and Education Center

The Principle of Compassion

Compassion is soft-heartedness. It is feeling the feelings of others and seeking connection through those feelings. It is the willingness to join another in their pain, even in pains we don’t understand. Compassion seeks to preserve another’s dignity especially in times of need and/or crisis. Be it the pain of divorce or the loss of a loved one, economic insecurity or the trials of parenthood, to be human is to carry pain. Pain comes from many sources and many angles. Some pain we bring upon ourselves. Other pain simply finds us for no discernible reason. My Dream Church would have a heart for others and their circumstances in life. And My Dream Church would know what to do. Perkatory would practice compassion through Pastoral Care and Reconcilation.

  • The Practice of Pastoral Care
    • Embrace the notion that the world is our parish and feel a great deal of responsibility to the community.
    • Be ready to respond to the pains of our constituency. We would practice pastoral care by attending to the suffering in our community.
    • Pastoral care is the responsibility of all disciples.
    • Embrace established practices (like condolence cards to the bereaved) and develop new ones (work-place listening circles).
    • See: Stephen Ministry
  • The Practice of Reconciliation
    • Seeking wholeness on the other side of brokenness.
    • Worship would regularly feature confession of sins and acts of forgiveness.
    • Class meetings would encourage not only confession, but penance for the means of reconciliation.
    • See: Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Conclusion

Through these principles–Grace, Generosity, Connectionalism, Devotion, Justice and Compassion–My Dream Church would have a foundation from which to operate. Maybe this is too much, but when was the last time you just dreamt up a church from scratch? We’re at a point historically where the momentum from the church’s golden years is running out and all things about the church are being questioned. You cannot just start new churches. You have to know why you exist and the basis for your operation. If the gospel is still important, then the principles of a church are vital to its fruitfulness.

This post began as a 2700 word essay to myself. To see the full post click here.

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