Thriving Congregations Initiative

Reimagining Church

New Models for the 21st Century

Why Church?

Zak Carroll

One question inherent to the Reimagining Church program that is so fundamental that it runs the risk of being overlooked is: Why Church? In a diversifying North American society that is increasingly more religiously pluralistic and non-Christian, one must ask the question of why the Church as an institution and place for communal gathering remains relevant or ought to remain relevant. As the past few decades have seen the uncovering of abuse within the church and the decline of church participation, some who walk into our churches (or stay away from them) might well wonder if there is any value left in Church. If the Church is to be Reimagined, we must provide a compelling account for why it is not antiquated or detrimental but rather is integral to 21st century human flourishing.

An academic year’s time is certainly not sufficient to answer that question fully. And yet, in my time with the Branford working group I have formed my own partial answer to the question above. The Church, when operating in a healthy way, is a place where divine comfort and healing flow out to those in need. In November, after a mere few months operating as the student facilitator with the Branford working group, my family’s life was turned upside down with tragic news. Though I was new to the members of the FCCB working group, they were nothing but gracious and loving as they walked with me over the intervening months through my family’s story of a difficult pregnancy and infant loss.

While many networks of people were sympathetic and understanding of what my family journeyed through, it was in the Church that I found a group of people who adopted my difficulties as the trials of one of their own members. Though I was new to FCCB and would within a year be gone, the people of this congregation sought to support me in a way unique from what I experienced in other social groups. The reason that we must Reimagine Church is because the human experience of joy, loss, euphoria, and tragedy is as much the same as it ever was, and there is no less a need for a place and people of divine grace and healing today than at any time in the past. When we rethink what Church can be and reconfigure it for a changing society, we do the holy work of preparing ourselves and our communities to encounter that love from God in new life-sustaining and invigorating ways. The people of FCCB have shown me that love and, in the process, have provided their own example of why Reimagining the Church is a good work for us to undertake.