Friday, February 29, 2008

Starbuck's and Church: Closed for Reprayers?

"For some time now, we've been treated to a good deal of heavy breathing and earnest thumb sucking about the plight of the Christian religion and the problems of the institutional church. My thesis is that almost all of it is wildly off the mark. While it is true that our present dishevelment may well be one of the larger crises (or opportunities) the church has bumped into over its long career, our real difficulty is something else: we have an almost continuous track record of hitting the Christian nail squarely on the thumb. All our noisy hammering to the contrary, the problem is not that we need to get back to the truth of our religion or to get on to some better version of the ecclesiastical institution: rather, it's that we need nothing so much as to stop acting as if we're either a religion or an institution at all."
-Robert Farrar Capon, The Astonished Heart

Whatever you think about Starbucks/St. Arbuck's...

...see for example:

...their recent bold move by Chairman Schulz to actually close all stores nationwide at 5:30 pm the other day was intriguing. Ostensibly to offer a (mandated) meeting to encourage and equip baristas towards "Perfecting the Art of Espresso"; surely also to address their recent woes (grew too fast in recent years, and who would've guessed: upcoming competition from McDonald's), what happened at this "secret" meeting?

No major leaks, but the baristas I quickly queried were jazzed. One even said, "I bet we even gained instead of lost money in the long run...we have had new customers intrigued by the idea of 'Why would a whole chain care enough to close?"

What would people think if every "branch office" of the Christian church in America "closed" for one (gasp!) Sunday morning for a mandatory meeting of employees to...

I don't want to say "quality control," or "customer satisfaction"..

How about to ask the Capon questions; and follow the Capon model:

My program would be this. Whoever is in command over the dying institution at the next highest level of corporate church-the diocese, the presbytery, whatever-would take the bull by the horns and kill it: close the church, dissolve its bard, sequester its endowments, and sell off its property, putting the proceeds in escrow just in case the corpse ever rises and finds a use for them. Then the managers would explain to the remaining members of those churches that they were free to do anything they could think of (or nothing at all, if they so chose). A suggestion would be made, however, that they might think about holding a kind of wake the next Sunday, perhaps in one of their homes, or in a restaurant or bowling alley that didn't open till 1:00 p.m. And if they took that suggestion...

Well, they might sit and stare blankly at each other to begin with. But with any luck,, some free spirit (young or old) among them would break the ice with the questions they had never been able to ask-namely, "Who are we?" "Why on earth are we here?" And most importantly, "What do we think we'd actually LIKE to do?" Having no model at all to meet the upkeep on and no known shape to whip themselves into, they would for the first time be open to looking for radically new answers--honest answers that could range anywhere from "We haven't the foggiest notion, but let's get together again next Sunday and see if anything occurred an the meantime" to "We're here to be the church, I suppose-whatever that means"", to "How about for openers we just try to stick with fellowship, breaking bread, and the prayers--maybe God will take care of the rest, if He wants any."

Those answers wouldn't sound like much of a start, of course; but then, a bunch of Galileans twiddling their thumbs in Jerusalem for nine days after the Ascension didn't seem like a grand opening, either. The operative fact is that a start can occur only after stop. As Isaiah reminded Israel, the church's strength is to sit still: all the power, all the resources, and all the hope of the defunctly marginal lie hidden in the terrifying reality of their death. Only out of that can they live. The only thing they need to guard against is the temptation to stop being dead. Alive and kicking may be nice, but it's not astonishing. DEAD AND KICKING, though, that's astonishing. That in fact, is resurrection-and its the only thing that can bring the best out in the church..

-Robert Farrar Capon, The Astonished Heart .link

This is in fact what we (are tiny branch office of the fruit tree)are doing this Sunday..

kind of...only, technically, we are "open for business"..
as we do this business.


It will be fun.

Join us.

There will be no thumbsucking allowed; but coffee and dreams will flow.

Astonish me to death.

Scare me to life.

Maybe next week we'll close to watch a movie or something..

Bono closed down U2 temporarily at the end of the 1990s, announing "We need to go away and dream it all up again."

Maybe we''ll put up a sign "closed for reprayers."

Capon concludes:
"DESIRE, however we manage it, can always explode into astonishment"

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!