I recently worshipped at the San Rafael Sunday Farmer's Market. It was an experience that brought some reflections on Church faith community worship.
At the market diverse people gathered together to search for fantastically fresh food that they hungered for. The stalls were lined together with a tidal wave splash of multiple-colors, textures, shapes and sizes. The seating area (pictured above) and located next to a quality espresso-making coffee stand was filled to capacity at 9am. There wasn't any magical formula per say that maxed out the parking lot at a time when it's becoming increasingly easier to find a spot in most church parking lots. The merchants offered what people wanted and repeatedly want. Maybe the market has a lot to teach those of us wanting to help the church to change, to better address the context we live in today.
I'm not advocating that the church such do whatever our cultural context dictates, yet it does provide some avenues for action. In the market aesthetics were important. They didn't replace the quality of the goods for sale. Yet they enticed people to leave the school-like stream of market shoppers swimming through the isles to pause and linger at a given stall and potentially make a purchase. It was the same thing, nearly a ritual, that occurs every Sunday - yet an attention to aesthetics: appearance, color, space, smell, light made a difference. I mean how much can you doll up a tomato? And yet I was taken aback by the colors and shapes that were present. Maybe that in part is something we're lacking, maybe through our deeply grounded and vital roots in the reformation traditions of our ancestors we through the baby out with the bath water. We do need aesthetics to fathom and contemplate the divine. We do want quality, to not just be told what to buy - or do - but to discover for ourselves, to be empowered to become full participants. In the market that might be a seller sharing a recipe, or giving tips on what to do with food that's bought. Maybe in the church we need to do more teaching, or empowering in terms of spiritual disciplines: ways in which the common person can be involved, creatively responding by faith to the world as opposed to passively listening to a sermon. At this fish stand I heard such conversations emerging while I lingered for a few minutes. Unfortunately my last Sunday worship experiences haven't included any sort of similar dialogs.
There were so many young families at the Market. None seemed to be rushing off for church. Maybe that's Southern Marin for you. And maybe it's a lesson for the church: a school room for us to attend to in view of catching a glimpse of how the church might re-become more relevant for our culture and context.