A little project I have had the honor of working on is the Fort Worth Dish Out. Which is not a huge thing in the world of micro-finance and micro-granting, but it is a huge thing in my little world.
If you were not there, we had 162 people in attendance on a Sunday evening who each gave at least $20 to break bread, meet new people, share ideas, and participated by voting to support different mission/service projects/ministries in the Fort Worth community.
People were there for 2 hours. Which by most accounts, is 100% longer than most worship services.
And not a single person said to me, "hey, this thing ran long".
Not one. In fact, the opposite was true. People asked when could we do it again and even offered up their time and resources to help the FwDo in the future. It really was remarkable.
But more than that. It was Church.
Too often we think of Church as what we do in worship. And while worship is important to Church, worship is just one expression of Church.
And the worship expression has become the dominate, and seemingly only acceptable expression, of Church.
Recently I was asked by a respected clergy friend if there was any fall out from church members or from my bishop about putting on an expression of Church that had wine. (The UMC has a stance that does not jibe with alcohol consumption.)
Frankly, while I respect my bishop and will do as I am asked to do I would have to respectfully disagree with him if he decided to take issue with the FwDo. However, based upon a recent blog post he wrote, I do not think that will be a problem.
Here is the last paragraph of the linked post which I think expresses an incarnational theology beautifully (emphasis added):
"Wesley took the commanding mission (and commission!) to spread the gospel through making disciples way beyond radical hospitality. He went where the people were out of love of Christ and love of those who have no relationship with the living God as Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. What is the equivalent of the New Room and field preaching for us this day? I believe the same living Lord who called Wesley and early Methodists calls us today."
It seems to me that the UMC has at least one bishop who understands mission and service to a world in need and might be willing to support some ministries that move the Church into other expressions of Church that are not just worship.
I am thankful that there were many people at the FwDo who also caught a glimpse of what Church can look like in addition to Sunday morning worship.
Let us hope that vision does not fade in time.