Cafes, Cathedrals and Communities

Cafes and cathedrals are both very good things and have their places within communities. But somehow I think that “cathedral thinking” in this century requires us to consider a vision that is both bigger than a simple cafe and smaller than a city-of-God-type cathedral. We need to be building communities. My problem is that I don’t really know how to go about doing such a thing. I do have several models and threads of ideas from various sources:

1. The mega-churches aren’t all bad, after all. Build a place that becomes a community center, a place for people to come and exercise, study, have lunch, do crafts, and worship. The problem with these mega-church buildings is that the (relatively) rich people who build them sometimes feel such a sense of ownership that the “riff-raff” are discouraged from attending the church or using the building or becoming part of the community. So we need a central space/building that is dedicated to God by the entire community.

2. The Highlands Study Center isn’t a mega-church with a huge multi-purpose building, but they are a group of Presbyterians who are building a community similar to what I have in mind.

The Highlands Study Center exists to help Christians live more simple, separate, and deliberate lives to the glory of God and for the building of His kingdom. And that’s a big job, one done not simply, but deliberately. As a ministry of Saint Peter Presbyterian Church, we stand with the Westminster Standards. Our hope is to help Reformed believers apply those principles to the way we live our lives. To that end we have a number of different ministries.

I doubt if I’m reformed enough or theologically erudite enough for them, but the idea of a community of mostly homeschooling families gathered around a church and study center is appealing. Somehow I still want to add in the outreach and evangelism component of Catez’s Open Late Cafe.

3. In her book The Severed Wasp, Madeleine L’Engle creates a Christian community that revolves around life at a fictional New York Episcopal Cathedral. The setting is based on Ms. L’Engle’s real-life experiences as volunteer librarian and writer-in-residence at the Epsicopal Cathedral of St. John Divine in New York City. Norma at Collecting My Thoughts wrote last year about her Lutheran church and its many ministries, including a Visual Arts Ministry which showcases various artists including, but not limited to, church members. Our churches and cathedrals and communities should be places for artists and poets and writers-in-residence and architects and musicians to work and worship and follow God’s calling in their lives.

4. L’abri Fellowship in its various forms and locations is another model for what I’m trying to articulate.

L’Abri is a French word that means shelter. The first L’Abri community was founded in Switzerland in 1955 by Dr. Francis Schaeffer and his wife, Edith. Dr. Schaeffer was a Christian theologian and philosopher who also authored a number of books on theology, philosophy, general culture and the arts.
The L’Abri communities are study centers in Europe, Asia and America where individuals have the opportunity to seek answers to honest questions about God and the significance of human life. L’Abri believes that Christianity speaks to all aspects of life.

5. Another model is the Celtic monastery that I wrote about here.

6. Our homeschool co-op, called REACH, is yet another example of intentional Christian community that reaches across denominational lines. We have about 100 families participating in a co-op in which mostly moms teach children from babies to high schoolers on Firday mornings. All the moms teach or help in some way; we use the facilities at a large Baptist church. We are not a church, but we have learned to care for one another in a way similar to the way a church cares for its members. And we call on the gifts of each co-op member in a way that parallels the way the great cathedrals were built. To teach our children we need mathematicians and scientists and crafters and artists and nurturers and organizers and bloggers and readers. We all work together to build and maintain an organization that we hope will help educate the children and bring glory to God.

Study and evangelism and the arts and worship and families and churches and libraries and other institutions with actual buildings—I think we should be building all of these things to the glory of God. I would like to see these things built together as a Living Cathedral that forms a vibrant Christian community. I don’t know how you organize such a vision and bring it to fruition without the huge institutional support from the Catholic Church that was in place already during the Middle Ages. I guess what I’m seeing are many scattered communities-in-the-making and ministries and churches with a bit of vision for this or that piece of the Living Cathedral I’m envisioning, but nothing to bring it all together in any one place and make something that would glorify God and draw men to Him for generations to come.
Maybe you start small and trust the Holy Spirit to bring things together into a unified whole in His own time.

5 thoughts on “Cafes, Cathedrals and Communities

  1. Great post, Sherry!

  2. Pingback: Pseudo-Polymath
  3. jngriffith

    Very late in browsing this. There is a children’s book you might seek. It’s called The Book of Hugh Flower, by Lorna Beers (1952). It’s the story of an English stone mason, who as a boy who comes to make his life building medieval churches. My copies are library castaways. Which means the book had been chosen at one time by the library selection staff (always a good guide then; I don’t trust today’s library staffs, however). I like your ideas here very much and enjoyed your review of the Orthodox church earlier as well.

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