As individuals and as members of a community, we both shape and are shaped by the activities that make up our lives. Therefore we seek to be attentive to these activities, especially when we come together as a community of faith. Practices are the intentional, purposeful and social (communal) activities that create our shared life together as a Church. These practices form us as people of particular habits, language, behaviors--a way of life. Below are the communal practices that shape us and help us both act and respond to the world in light of our identity as God's people through Jesus our Lord, who are loved by the Father and empowered by the Spirit.
Each Sunday we are called together, as one people, to hear God speak; after we are sent back into the world for His mission. Our worship is dialogical and both determines and reinforces our identity and mission through our liturgies of praise, ritual and symbol; it is, in a sense, a rehearsal of what should happen in and through our lives Monday through Saturday. In our worship gatherings we seek to nurture a faith that leads us away from merely working for God to working with God; from merely gathering for God to gathering with God. Worship forms our imaginations with a kingdom-shaped perspective. Our Sunday liturgy, what we do when we come together, seeks to model our way of life--the way of blessing, the culmination of the common life rooted in our true identity, and the preparation for mission. As we participate in these larger weekly gatherings, rather than sit back as spectators, our lives are transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ and we are ready to once again participate in what He is doing in the world through His Church. Worship becomes more of a lifestyle rather than merely an event.
As an ongoing practice of hospitality, we understand "Church" to be who we are, not what we do. This invites us to share in life with one another and create shared experiences beyond an assigned time or designated day of the week. We are learning to find ways to be together throughout each week, whether in missional communities, parties, random outings, or shared meals.
Eucharist means "thanksgiving," and is also called "Communion" or "the Lord's Supper." Eucharist is the weekly rehearsal of the gospel narrative that prepares us for mission: the practice of receiving the welcome of Christ. As we partake of the bread and wine with an attitude of faith and self-examination, we remember and proclaim the death of Christ, receive spiritual nourishment for our souls, and signifies our unity with Christ’s universal Church. It is in this practice we acknowledge both our need and common belonging, which becomes our training for life in the world; the same kind of welcome extended to us by Christ becomes the same kind of welcome we extend to others. If we understand the Eucharist this way, our personal tables become an extension of the Lord's table; our lunch tables become extensions of the Lord's table; our cubicles become extensions of the Lord's table--because we remember that we are to be as welcoming to the person who cleans our trash as to the person who writes our checks.
As God extends hospitality to us through the bread and wine of Eucharist, so we are learning how to extend it to each other in the on-going sharing of meals. During the week our missional communities often enjoy a meal together where we chat about our lives and share how God is at work in and through us. On any day of the week, we hope to share a meal with our neighbors. As a larger gathered community we hope to enjoy a meal together every three months.
We are learning to cultivate ways of living that get us out of our homes and comfortable spaces and into the lives of our neighbors. For some, this is as simple as frequenting the same restaurants while asking for the same servers, staying with the same hair stylist, offering tasty treats to those who live next door, or hanging out in the breakrooms a few extra minutes. For others, this means committing to a “third place.” A “third place” is an informal public area where people socialize, such as a coffee shop, cafe, pub, park, hobby group, homeschooling co-op, etc. We enter these places of mission with genuine interest in what is happening there. Relationships form naturally, and if we find what we call “a person of peace" who is open to the gospel, then we can invite them into friendship with other Christ-followers, in whose company they might see King Jesus.
There is no “Head Pastor” in our community, just several co-pastors, elders and many ministers. We structure ourselves this way partially in reaction to hierarchical abuses of power, partially to emphasize that Jesus alone is Head of the Church, but mostly to stay faithful with what we see in Scripture and to incorporate a wider range of gifts among our leaders, mutually submitting to the Spirit’s guidance over us all. Everyone, not just the identified leaders, is encouraged to initiate ideas as we discern God's work together. Some of our pastors serve as their full-time occupation, some bi-vocational, and some in an "unpaid" way as they work in a different occupation.