It was not easy, because we do so many things outside the box of traditional church life. Yes, we have Sunday morning services, and Sunday evening services. Yes, we have people who donate their money to help support The Gathering. It keeps us in a church building on the main thoroughfare of public foot traffic in downtown Salem - well, at least our hearty little band is trying to do that.
BUT (yes I used the taboo big yelling letters, because it is a big but):
- We also get involved helping with community events (still good so far).
- We organize a large missional outreach to the 500,000 visitors and the locals who spend their time in downtown Salem every October (still easy enough to fathom).
- We have taught hundreds of people to do this work in a post-modern, post-christian setting (now we are stretching and looking like something which would be defined as "parachurch" - otherwise not church but helping it).
- We have become a place for missionally minded people to travel and work on a volunteer vacation - a type of pilgrimage of their faith, and we put them up in our homes! (okay, now we are stretching the boundaries of description!).
- We have become a location for a number of city events, and want to see this increase as well. (and I know some churches do that, but it has not been my experience that a lot do it.)
- We have been growing in the number of social justice educational activities we perform (now that adds a new twist).
- And we have befriended people not normally attached to typical evangelical or pentecostal churches - like witches, GLBT, atheists, and whoever typically doesn't like doctrinally conservative Christians (and I don't know what to do with that myself - except appreciate it a whole lot).
So, the question is: What narrative works best to describe this crazy community of faith? Is there a good and accurate one - one making sense to young and old, educated and uneducated, those with a background in church and those new to Christianity alike? Or must we use multiple narratives to describe who we are: the Open Source and abbey Christianity, and a few other descriptive story lines as well?
Do you have a narrative to describe us? Is there an illustration from church history, everyday life, car repair, garbage retrieval, or knitting to define us? If you have ideas send please comment below. We-a needs-a the help-a! (Pentecostal accent applied to the last line.)