Last week someone asked how I would reimagine church. What would I change? We had just passed our 16th anniversary as a church—I said that’s exactly what we did sixteen years ago. We were a subversive lot back then, wanted to make a big statement about our differences. I was twenty years into study of Jesus from a Hebrew/Aramaic perspective and a personal contemplative journey. Our leadership group had formed around those principles, so we wanted our statement centered on those differences.
We didn’t want to call ourselves Christian or church; those terms were loaded, descriptive of a different worldview. We wanted to de-emphasize theology in favor of personal experience in contemplative practice, using theology to limit our error rather than make absolute statements—embrace the uncertainty, paradox of this life. We wanted our gatherings (not services) to be EPIC—experiential, participatory, image-based, communal. We experimented.
We started as a recovery church that also worshipped together, working with addicts and alcoholics, trying to stand the model of community church on its head. We saw ourselves chasing the effect of God’s love on our daily lives rather than a theological cause, answering both the necessary steps of early recovery and Jesus’ Aramaic Way. We saw everyone as recovering from something.
Honestly, we’ve stayed true to those principles, but the reality of a generation of community life has changed us. The losses we’ve sustained, the deaths, overdoses, disagreements, rejections—but also the miracles, healings, recovery, friendships.
What were we saying yes to sixteen years ago when we reimagined?
We said yes to having everything we thought we knew about ourselves, life, reimagined church and our ability to build it, challenged, dissolved. Loss of certainty, broken hearts, shattered faith. But as we kept showing up, what grew back after the wildfires was recovery. Miracles we never saw coming. We said yes to life unredacted, unadorned, unclothed.
Would I say yes all over again? In a heartbeat.