institutional whatnot

Manuela asked me the other day if I was in or out of the institutional church, and referenced the fact that my oh-so-informative profile lists my "industry" as "religion." I have to say that really, I think that's kind of funny, tho there's a sense in which it's true, but I guess it all does bear a little more explanation, especially for a few of my newer readers, and actually for almost all of you, as I have some rather exciting news, which I can finally share. ;)

The past year has been quite a journey. I am rather amazed at some of the unexpected twists and turns my road has taken; I would not have seen any of this coming. So Sara - remember how about a year ago you said my life would look totally different by Christmas? I stand by what I said - you are too prophetic... lol. :)

I left what I suppose you would call the "institutional church" last May. I didn't mean to. It was sort of an accident. I wrestled with it some over the summer (I wrote about it here), but for the past few months I have been pretty much at peace with it. A year ago I started leading worship every other week for my church - but between that and grad school and working full time and being the worship director for Torch - I was too busy. All of the things I was doing for God were taking so much time that I didn't have enough time to spend at His feet, and I, to put it quite simply, burned out. So I quit. I quit pretty much everything I was doing except my job and what I do for Torch. I started biking. I took a week-long road trip with Jesus. And what started as just taking a break from the Sunday morning routine ended up being a more permanent thing. I just never went back.

But what I said in that post about Torch was very true - it has been enough. Torch was the college and young adult group at my church, and I've been its worship director for almost two years. We have a Monday night service, and on Tuesday nights I go to what we call mini-church - a small group, essentially, just a few people who get together and talk about life and study the Bible together. Every other Thursday I go to a more formal study group called Fierce, and we meet with our pastor and study things like prophetic ministry and teaching. Once a month a larger group called Joshua's Army, which is many of the core leaders of our ministry, meets for dinner and talks about a book - we've read books about everything from leadership to finances to pursuing a deeper walk with God. Add in all the phone conversations and dinners and hang-out nights and outreach projects and prayer meetings, etc. - and it's been church. Church, in many, many ways, as it should be. We pray, worship, work, play, live, study, laugh and cry together. Are we perfect? Far from it. But this amazing group of people with whom I've been doing ministry are my church family.

And now they're officially so. As of January 1st, Torch is no longer a ministry under the umbrella of a larger church, but is, in fact, a church plant! For awhile, nothing will look all that different - we will still meet on Mondays rather than on the weekends, and we will still do everything else that we've been doing. But this summer we'll start weekend services, and who knows what God will do with us? :)

It's going to be one exciting journey.

So, yes. I've been "out" of the IC for awhile, and now I guess I'm back "in" again - and yet... I haven't been out of it, either, because really, at the end of the day, the church has never been a building, or a place to go. The church, as the song says, is really just people... You know the old fingerplay: This is the church, this is the steeple, open the doors, but where are the people? Well, God willing, they're out there. Living life, being a community that radically loves each other and reaches out to be the hands and feet of Christ to their friends and neighbors. I know that where Torch wants to be. And while I am dreaming of the day that we have our own space - a place to gather and to worship - a place to store all my chord charts other than my closet (lol) - and a place from which to send people out (all over the world!) - in the meantime, it's actually kind of cool to not have a building. Tho not having an address makes filling out some of the paperwork a bit interesting... ;)


Sara said...

hmm. no, I don't remember saying that. :) lol

Manuela said...

Hey, thanks for sharing. Yeah your industry label made me curious : )

Religion means so may different things to different people ( I just looked up the word in Wikipedia... and yeah, interesting)
I suppose it all boils down to what we mean by religion...

Erin said...

Oh Hap, I'm excited for you for all the new things this year will bring!

Happy said...

Sara - haha, well, I do. ;)

Manuela - I suspect it was just the closest option I could pick that explained (sort of) what I do... silly choice menus... I learned while filling out some paperwork the other day that "non-denominational" isn't an option anymore - at least for this particular agency - I had to pick "other/unclassified." I go to an unclassified church currently called Torch - it sounds like a haven for pyromaniacs. lol. so i think i'll start lobbying for a new name... :)

Erin - thanks! I was telling Jemila the other day - it's not like my job description changed between Dec. 31st and Jan. 1st, but I feel so... *official* now! Kinda scary... but kinda fun too... :)

Sara said...

mm . . . church for pyromaniacs. Maybe it's Torch's call in American Christianity to restore burnt offerings. :) Fire is good. A nice crackling hardwood bonfire unto God. (Can you tell that I had fun yesterday burning all limbs that the ice storm in Dec. scattered all over our yard?)

Happy said...

i am sad that i wasn't there to "help." And by help I mean standing about getting warm by the fire, enjoying the smell, and roasting marshmallows with your kids while you did all the work.

Have i mentioned that every box of wood flooring i am removing from our living room weighs 40 lbs.?! It didn't hit me until I picked up the first box that that's actually rather heavy... lol.

Ruth said...

That's Awesome Happy! Thanks for the update - having spent this past year labouring with you it's so exciting to hear how God's calling on you is taking form. Regarding your previous post about your dream...I just want to let you know that you really do have gift of bible teaching. I love to read your devotionals, the way you point things out and ponder and the whimsical language you use.