Actual Church Life
...when I think of the welfare and health of "the church universal" - her struggles, her flaws, her beauty, her care and tending and preservation, her value and her worth...I have had this place before me.
This one small particular represents the universal whole far more tangibly and accurately, demanding more pressing love and sacrifice and talent and commitment than any idea of the universal.
When I have considered grace, kindness, patience, betrayal or carelessness, devotion and worship, when I consider weariness, ecstatic joy, fresh babies and precious children, I have had in my mind's eye the people of this place, their faces and their words and their smiles and their pain.
I can recall the look of a hundred different daylights on all those faces, the worship postures and body languages of the men and women who have labored here, and those who do labor here to this very day - I can see them, in my mind's eye, tending their little patch of ground, because all of us know that you have to stick and stay to reap your harvest.
Harvest Church. You have given me the great privilege of living actual, versus imagined, church life. Your very (seeming) smallness has made you great among churches - your size forces honest connection.
I love you for that.
Post edit: this piece is a "riff"...it is my improvisational "take"...on a paragraph from a Wendell Barry book of, believe it or not, agrarian essays. He was writing about the countryside of his native Kentucky. I thought of the ecclesia. My mind is at the mercy of its associations. Likely, no one would ever recognize the similarities...because I took Barry's thoughts on agriculture and culture and definitely re-made them into my own thoughts on the church. But still...the inspiration was a very direct one, and I meant to say so! (And no...no one called this to my attention. I am self-editing, here. I meant to give credit where credit was due, and simply forgot.)