“I plan to study how an innovative model of church played out over the full course of its life, in this case 51 years from its start in 1965 until members discerned it was time to cease worshiping together in 2016. ”
Most pastoral leaders have read enough headlines like “‘Church as usual’ is no longer an option” to practically write the story without reading it. With the increase in religiously unaffiliated people, many of us are struggling to adapt. Among the resources available for leaders, one rarely finds the resource of historical narrative that probes the complexities of congregational life and an unusual model of church. I plan to study an urban congregation from beginning to end and write in the style of a biography about its gifts, strengths, and weaknesses.
Intentionally planted in the city at a time when many churches were leaving, the Community of Christ attracted people disillusioned with traditional religious institutions. The Lutheran pastor who planted the Community in 1965 sees it as having a similar spirit to the more-recent emerging church movement. The Community “distinguished itself from the more-organized church without rejecting it,” one former member says. It was part of two neighborhoods during decades of demographic change, first as renters and later buying a building. I will seek to learn how it became primarily lay-led, with ordained clergy playing a guiding role. I will also explore what dying well looks like for a congregation.