The Church-In-A-Place

Our very tendency to accentuate denominational unity and to fail to see all the various assemblies that make up the church-in-a-place distracts us from the major task of attending to the central matters of liturgical assembly in ways that are in accord with the dignity and gifts of each locality. This tendency can be further strengthened by the contemporary interest in consumerism. By appealing to consumerism we way be tacitly saying, here the Roman Catholic sacraments are made available to seeking individuals; here you can “get” the Lutheran word; here the Methodist way; here the Orthodox mystique. Or even here is “church” the way I like it; in the marketplace of religion, I will buy what I need here. But the question remains: how are word and sacraments to be done in this place, in participating assemblies, even in assemblies that receive the Orthodox or Methodist or Lutheran or Roman Catholic gifts as treasures, especially in assemblies that increasingly draw the post-denominational seekers, so that these assemblies bear witness together to the mercy of God for this particular place? The fascinating and paradoxical truth is that one of the universal gifts, shared across time and space by Christian communities, a gift which admonishes us yet today, is the call to localization. Of course, such local celebration must also always be marked by the signs that connect with all, in every place. For the phenomenon of religion as sales commodity has had another unhappy effect. There are no local Christian gatherings that have no perceived interest in historic or catholic connection, no interest in being anything but local places for answering individually perceived needs. To the extent that these are indeed Christian gatherings, they are in need of challenge and exhortation.

Gordon W. Lathrop, Holy People: A Liturgical Ecclesiology (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2006), pp. 63-64. ISBN: 978-0-8006-3840-5.