Re-Membering Church

October 6, 2010

In a recent post on the United Methodist Portal, Andrew Thompson offers some great thoughts on the UMC Re-Think church campaign. You can find that article here, to get those thoughts in detail (and I definitely encourage you to do so!). In his article, Andrew talks about a few ways we can engage “Re-Thinking”* church by “remembering.” Remembering can be an action we do with our minds, but it also means a deeper action, a putting back together of our church, our hearts, and our lives in Christ.

The question is, “how do we re-member?” Catechesis is one significant access to the memory-deposit of the church that many mainline Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic Evangelical pastors and theologians alike encourage our churches to turn toward. Catechesis engages new (and old!) Christians in a process of learning the content of the faith we profess. Catechesis trains Christians to remember the deposit of hope placed in us at our baptism, when we are initiated into Christ’s body.

But for re-membering to be a serious desire for the re-ordering of our lives, (and if we are seriously not Pelagians who believe we can do it all ourselves) we must also ask, “How are we re-membered individually and as a church?” Here we must expand our catechetical engagement to include sacramental catechesis. In other words, we must learn and teach the faith first in the school of Worship of our Living God.

In all worship, but especially in the sacraments, we remember and we are are re-membered by Christ. Now let me clarify my terms here: our sacramental memory is no “mere” memorial. Our sacramental memory is dynamic, our sacramental memory is anamnetic.** As we remember the institution of the Lord’s Supper, we are re-membered into faithful disciples obeying the call of the Lord. Our sacramental celebration of the Eucharist presences us within the broken body of Christ for the transformation of the world when we affirm the prayer of the church, “Pour out your Holy Spirit upon these gifts of bread and wine make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ redeemed by His blood…” with our (hopefully vigorous!) Amen.

I’m a United Methodist female candidate for ministry attending a Roman Catholic university. I attend Mass as often as I can at school and Eucharist at my UM Church on Sunday because I take John Wesley’s admonition to “constant communion” seriously. Living in the liminal sacramental space of Christ’s severed body the church hurts my heart. This is not a statement to say that anybody is “wrong” in their open or closed table. It’s not a placement of fault: that’s an unhelpful dead end conversation. But the sacramental broken body of our Lord should break our hearts so that they can remember the love of our God in glory. Like Paschal, I am convicted every single day when I worship that “Christ is in agony until the end of the world.” I am convinced that re-thinking must begin with re-membering and being re-membered. Re-thinking church can only begin by allowing ourselves to be re-membered as the sacramental body of our Lord and by being renewed through the memory and mind of Christ offered to us in the liturgy of the Church.

Amen.

*Re-Think church names a recent United Methodist movement to open the windows and doors of the church to the renewal of the Holy Spirit. For a more in-depth discussion see the UMC website.

**Anamnesis is a greek term, and by it the church means indicates a type of memory that places us at Christ’s eschatalogical table. We remember the passion of our Lord in such a way that it becomes real in our twenty first century reality. We affirm that in the sacraments God’s Holy Spirit re-members God’s church to be the body of Christ even as we partake of the bread and the wine.

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2 Responses to “Re-Membering Church”

  1. Trisha Tan Says:

    “(and if we are seriously not Arians who believe we can do it all ourselves)”

    …Did you perchance mean Pelagians?

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