If you've been following this blog you know that my sabbatical is all about exploring the wild and woolly things that are happening in churches, and this past week I got to hang out in the mother ship of wild and woolly - Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis. A big part of that was hanging out with Doug Pagitt, the godfather of the wild and woolly, but equally important was simply meeting the folks who call Solomon's Porch home.
Whenever I'd ask what it was about Solomon's Porch that drew them in and kept them coming, they always spoke in two terms - the sense of being part of a family and shaping a more inclusive Christianity.
I could see why. Solomon's Porch has a definite family vibe. The sanctuary with its concentric circles of couches and chairs feels like an enormous living room. As a newcomer you quickly get to know people. Try sitting on a couch with people and not introduce yourself. The chairs and couches are also arranged in clusters, making it easier still to connect. It's intentional. It's subtle. It's ingenious.
Unlike the average UCC, they make connecting with newcomers a community value. They are aware that every new person will bring about a change in group dynamics, and they welcome that. Too often UCC congregations expect newcomers to assimilate into what is whereas at SP they want to honour fresh perspectives and new ideas. This is part of their inclusive culture. Every voice has value. You see this in the sermon which is more of a shared conversation. You see this in the sharing of communion where everyone shares the prayer and bread is broken in the chair-couch clusters. You see this in worship leadership. Doug doesn't plan every detail but rather each leader is in charge of her own part. The songs don't need to fit a theme. The poem doesn't need to fit. The prayers don't need to fit. It's simply a spiritual happening.
This sense of inclusive community is not an end in itself. Solomon's Porch is a community hub. There is something going on all the time, the downstairs being home to "Yoga Sanctuary" and upstairs home to the "Faith, Health and Wellness Center". They hold outreach dinners and seek social justice in the community. They are connected to their neighbourhood and help out wherever they can.
They are not so much practicing Christianity as they are following the Way of Jesus. This idea is not new to us in the UCC but we have been unable to really reflect that in our worship style. Our forms say Churchianity even though we practice something different in the day to day. Solomon's Porch reflect what they preach.
There is much that wild and woolly places like Solomon's Porch can teach us about being less churchy and more followers of the Way, to create the inclusive, justice-seeking communities of faith we claim to be, places where people just want to hang out and in the experience become who we are called to be.