In this week after our fantastic annual parish meeting, I am reflecting on the word “church.” The Greek word that is translated “church” in English is ekklesia. And if you look it up inBill Mounce’s Greek dictionary, you will discover this: in the New Testament a church is never a building or meeting place. It is an assembly, a congregation.
We know this, as it is a lesson we learned in the pandemic. The church is not the building. It is people, bound together in the power of the Spirit. Sometimes, we choose to embody these bonds by gathering in our buildings, or watching a livestream of a worship service, or meeting on Zoom. But we don’t need to be gathered, whether in a specific place or through the magic of technology, to remain a congregation. We do not stop being church when we are apart, each in our homes, workplaces, gyms, restaurants, shops, or out and about in nature, in our town, or anywhere in the world.
Water can manifest as ice, liquid, or steam that diffuses to become part of the air we breathe. We might imagine that when we are gathered, we are more solid, like liquid or ice (no jokes about being God’s “frozen chosen!”), and when we are out in the world we are like steam or vapor that humidifies the air. We are part of the breath of God that tames chaos, as it has since God first breathed over the deep and brought all things into being.
Our identity as the ekklesia is 24/7, not 1 or 2 or even 40 out of the 168 hours in a week. Wherever we go, we are the people of St. Mary’s. We may or may not be immediately identifiable as such to everyone we encounter, like we can’t always see water vapor in the air. But I trust we are identifiable as people of love and kindness, people of mercy and compassion, people of hope and joy. Those are the hallmarks of God’s reign, which we are called to proclaim. May we do so with joy and boldness.