By Rachel Bauer, an incoming student at Union Presbyterian Seminary.
There was a plane crash. And I read The Digital Cathedral by Keith Anderson. What these two things have in common is this: glass.
I’ve heard stories of experiences where a person is removed somehow from the day-to-day. It is like glass breaking, these experiences. It causes in our internal space a pause, while the external space of the world keeps moving. It’s like despite our openness, we feel separated from others, isolated in our experience. In my experience, this has felt like a glass wall being built between me and others.
The often antidote to this is to share success stories, even to share the saving power of Christ, but the problem is that these are often on the other side of the glass, and I want to know how to connect and integrate the internal openness with an external sense of openness.
This speaks to my own growing sense of ministry. There is a profound and real experience: we break through our suffering, glass falls all around us, and yet people sweep it up and move on. This earth-shattering experience for one person is a part of the mundane and everyday tapestry of others. This reminds me of what Keith Anderson has to say about Christ—that Jesus was the sacred in the mundane. He walked everywhere, was in places where the sacred usually was not, and brought attention to it. He broke through the glass, but it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always evident, even to his disciples, and often it left people angry that he was daring to break through at all.
I don’t think that this is so far from our own experiences. I think in some ways we are Christ in the world. The glass has been broken for us and it feels exposing. When we have an experience of transformation, the world doesn’t stop. And so I must think that we are called to hold vigil for ourselves. I do believe we crave companionship to honor the stillness when we have an experience of glass breaking in our lives. However, it is up to us to create that space.
That’s what all this networking is about: creating space. Finding people to be with us in the post-glass-breaking phase when the rest of the world sweeps it up. We can stop time, not literally, but in our lives. We can create gathering space to hold vigil for the way Christ has broken through in our lives. In some ways, this is the first, and often missed step, in evangelism. We immediately go from church to street, without stopping in that middle space, in that space of transition.
When we talk about Christ, we begin to break through the facade, and not everyone wants their glass broken in the wide open space of the world. There is so much exposure there. The response to this is to create safe space where we can breakthrough our facades and keep coming back until it’s OK. This, though, takes time. Anderson talks about this movement in the church. It is not a movement away from the church, but is actually a movement towards it. It’s a movement towards people. He poses the idea of each church being a cathedral in their community, or a liminal space, a crossroads where God can just drop into the everyday and we can take notice. This says to me that the understood ideas of the church may only be a tributary of the true heart of the church, and Anderson encourages us to reach beyond that glass and be in our community. It is an integrative approach, an approach that respects the pew and the small group alike. There is more than one way to break bread, and the call of the church is to explore what that means in our own community.
When we reach out to another human being, when we participate in an experience with someone else or with a group, we experience communion. There is a sense that no matter where we come from, we are one in this shared space. It seems the more I’m called to be with people, the more I feel I’m new. I am increasingly called to learn from others, to hold a space in which we gather. I do feel that Christ is in that space no matter where it is. So instead of shying away from this glass, I think it is that we are called to ease the transition, while also letting the break-through happen in a community that celebrates the pieces, and doesn’t just sweep them up.