becoming church outside of the ChurchThe Indigo Girls' concert I experienced last night at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento was maybe the closest thing to church I've experienced in a while. Surrounded by throngs of people singing along with lyrics that often times talked about faith, invoked Jesus and invited listeners to active participation in social action, I was in the minority in terms of gender, age and orientation. The majority of concert goers seem to be down with the themes of grace, faith, social responsibility, ethical actions, and solidarity in the name of something bigger than ourselves. Yet they also shared in the lyrics sung by the Indigo Girls (and opener Matt Morris) covering topics such as criticism of the institutional church for hierarchical actions, immigration reform, exclusion, making meaning in modern life, love, social action, generosity, overcoming evil with goodness, community, the paradox of human life. As I sang, reflected, and sang along some more I realized that it was the evening included several elements of church experience: community greetings, sacred texts being interpreted, invoking the life-example and teachings of Jesus, a benediction and exhortation which climaxed in a crowd-rushing-to-the-front-of-the-auditorium altar call to the song addressing the ills of modern American views of Immigration, "Shame on You" [music | lyrics], including the phrase "My friend Tanner she says you know me and Jesus we're of the same heart The only thing that keeps us distant is that I keep fuckin up".
Maybe this was more church than church often is? Someone in my life, a faith-full person, recently told me that they had pretty much given up on the community of the church - in the institutional sense - because it seems to be more about self-preservation at the cost of the excluded, marginalized and those without a voice, instead of following Jesus' words, actions and purpose in today's world. Isn't that what church - being called to community both in and for faith - is all about? Emily Saliers, one of the Indigo Girls, wrote a book [A Song to Sing: A Life to Live] with her father: a famous church organist, in which she basically affirms this through her personal experience of Christian faith, church participation and her experience of concerts often become more "church" than church is [my words]. Maybe the church is shrinking in attendance and participation because it's given up its purpose and passion to others in the name of holding fast to the traditions of credal orthodoxy, doctrine and dogma over people, the world and God's presence?