House Church Talk - do it yourself

David Anderson david at
Tue Jun 22 20:48:54 EDT 2004

Lotsa things going on around here. Hope your summer is off to a fine 

The piece below was referred to me by Steff Bennett. It may be of 
interest to some. Those who examine trends in the church might also try    

                                         David Anderson

Do-it-Yourself  Religion 
      June 11, 2004

Looking for a priest she could relate to, Cecilia Schulte had been church 
shopping since moving to Austin, Texas, a few years ago. But when the 
fifth parish she tried had an elderly priest and, in her view, not enough 
participation by women, the 43-year-old internist took a novel approach: 
She started her own worship group. 

"It's as deep as anything I've experienced in the Catholic Church," Dr. 
Schulte says. "Dogma doesn't get in the way." Her prayer gathering of 
about 12 people meets every two weeks in her living room, incorporates 
readings from many sources and doesn't use a pastor. Dr. Schulte 
acknowledges that the approach is outside the bounds of Catholicism, but 
she says the group helps strengthen her spirituality. 

In a move to deepen their spiritual lives, some Americans are tackling a 
new do-it-yourself project: religion. From Christian gatherings that 
emphasize postsermon discussions to small Jewish congregations that 
aren't centered around a synagogue, worshipers are crafting 
special-interest prayer groups to supplement or even replace services 
offered by their regular houses of worship. Some say they are looking for 
a more creative approach to spirituality, such as the start-up church in 
Dallas that -- while it still uses the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer 
and has a pastor -- asks members to write their sins in sand and brush 
them away. Others say they want to be more inclusive, such as the new 
Irvine, Calif., mosque that explicitly welcomes both Sunni and Shiite 

In some cases, the DIY approach is a backlash against churches' and 
synagogues' recent attempts to make religion more relevant and attract a 
younger generation. Instead of warming to innovations such as jazz Masses 
and video presentations on the pulpit, many worshipers say they prefer a 
smaller, more participatory experience. While megachurches are booming, 
some Christians have found the 2,000-member congregations too impersonal. 
Also, intense divisions over such subjects as gay clergy and the war in 
Iraq have left a number of worshipers dissatisfied with existing 
religious leadership -- whether conservative or liberal -- and in search 
of a new spiritual forum shared by those with similar views. 

Mixed Reaction 

Reaction by established congregations has been mixed. A few welcome these 
groups, hoping they will at least keep members spiritually active. Others 
stress that ad hoc gatherings can't take the place of official 
observance, particularly when there is no ordained officiant. For 
example, Catholicism requires its adherents to receive sacraments 
administered according to strict guidelines, and Orthodox Judaism demands 
a quorum of 10 men for certain worship obligations.

       See the Journal's site for the entire article.

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