Church is a difficult and challenging enterprise.

One of the main challenges for church is that church is two things at the same time.

Like any community, church is a group of people who organize their common life around certain principles. But church is also an organic living being that embodies the invisible reality of the Divine presence by which and for which it exists.

Church is body and church is spirit. These two realities often live in uneasy tension.

Churches must operate on the basis of principles and norms of behaviour regulated by certain rules and laws that govern their communal life.

Any community that desires to maintain a recognizable identity must have at least a minimal agreed norm of conduct and shared belief by which membership is recognizable. A group of people who accept no structure at all is simply a crowd. Crowds seldom accomplish anything of value. Crowds are rarely creative and often destructive. They usually have a short lifespan.

But, in any organization, structure can become a barrier to the life and purpose of the organization. It is possible for institutional structures to begin to exist more in service of the structures themselves than for the purpose for which they were originally instituted.  Structures exist, not as an end in themselves, but as a means to support the mission and life of the organization.  When structures hinder the purpose of the organization, the structures must change or the organization will die.

This problem is particularly serious for churches. Churches do not exist to perpetuate institutional life. The church does not exist to keep itself alive. Church structures and organization exist to facilitate life. We must sit lightly to our structures, operating principles, rules, and regulations.

The church must avoid any possibility that the institutional operating principles of the community take on more importance than the principles for which the community exists. Church members must give priority to their purpose rather than the procedures by which the church attempts to fulfill its purposes.  The church is a purpose not a procedure or a precedent driven organization.

So, what is the purpose of the church?

Church exists to facilitate the awareness in peoples’ lives of the presence of God in all of life and to support all people in living in willing response to that presence. It serves to encourage all people to discover for themselves, and come into greater alignment with, God’s presence and action in their lives and in all of creation.

The first task from which all else flows for the church is to help people share the experience Moses had on “Horeb, the mountain of God.” Standing before a burning bush, Moses heard God say,

the place on which you are standing is holy ground. (Exodus 3:5)

All of life has been made holy by God. Everywhere we stand is holy ground. At the heart of Christian faith is the conviction that, in Christ, God has sanctified all of life.

Not only is the place we stand holy, but we ourselves are holy. I Peter declares to the people of the church,

you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. (I Peter 2:9)

We are holy because God dwells within us. In I Corinthians 3:16, Paul challenges the Church asking,

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

We are the “holy” dwelling place of the “holy” God.

To be “holy” is to share in the character of the God who dwells within us, revealing God’s character in our actions, words, and thoughts.  To be holy is to be a whole people, a people who are integrated and united, who live in alignment with the purposes and design of life as created by God.

While acknowledging and accepting the brokenness and fragmentation that characterize the surface of all life, we affirm that, in a deeper way, we are one with God and, therefore, are one with all people and with all creation.  When we remember our true identity and conduct ourselves together in accordance with our true nature, church will embody the presence of God in the world and live in harmony with God’s Spirit.