The Portable Church

On the final day of General Assembly, five individuals from across the country shared their reflections on two questions: What does it look like for the church to be on the edge of new possibilities? And, what does it look like for church to take those first steps into the crossing?

Here is a transcript of Susan Mattinson’s reflection:

I think the church on the edge of new possibilities can look like any number of things, so it’s hard to narrow it down to a small timeframe. I’ve chosen to display a comic that shows one church (of a sort) on the edge of new possibilities.

What does it look like for a church to be on the edge of new possibilities? Well, a church on the edge of new possibilities can look like a church being present at the border of its comfort zone. Where have we set the border of our comfort zones? How far away are they anchored? In order to recognize that we are on the edge, we have to recognize that there is an edge to move towards.—that there is some area or opportunity just outside our usual experience and our comfort zone. Once we acknowledge there is an edge somewhere, like the boundary between land and sea in the illustration, we can make a choice and leave our comfort zone and enter the comfort zone of another. We can invite the other into our comfort zone, or we can meet them somewhere in the middle.

What it means, in this case, would be holding a value for the other that leads to a willingness to compromise for the sake of forging a relationship. Closely related to that, a church on the edge of new possibilities looks like a church that is intrigued by the other rather than fearful of the other. A genuine and deliberate desire to know people, particularly people who are different from ourselves opens the doors to a rich and varied church community. Getting into the water would be to intentionally seek out and celebrate diversity in our church communities, whether that diversity is race, age, gender, culture or different faith experiences and different faith expressions.

I titled this comic Portable Church. And that’s the importance of the distinction between the church as a people and the church as a structure: it’s hard to view the church as a structure as something that is portable. The reality, the actual people of the church are very portable. Even as large as our denomination is, the fact that General Assembly moves to a new location every year is one testament to the reality that we are indeed a portable church. We are able to move, and do move, to wherever God is calling us.  There’s not just one edge. It’s not just the church on the edge. I think there are many edges and many new possibilities.


About Susan Mattinson

Susan Mattinson is a newly minted graduate and attended General Assembly as a student representative of the Vancouver School of Theology.