Ponderings: The Church, Our Mother

The Christian tradition has a stream running through it—the idea of the Church as our Mother.  I have been thinking about this notion in relation to the current phenomenon sometimes referred to as “churchless Christianity.”

There are those who believe that the church is so seriously flawed that it no longer needs to be an ongoing part of a person’s practice of the faith.  This has to do with the institutional church, but it’s almost impossible to keep an earthly perception from having heavenly consequences.

I surely do not want to overlook the faults of the church.  Part of my life has been spent praying and working for renewal in the Body of Christ.  But I have recently become concerned that a severe critique of the Church is harming Christianity more than it is helping it.  And I am wondering if a recovery of the Church as our Mother might help us through this time.

If the Church is our Mother, then the basis of our relationship with it is love.  My own mother was sick for many years, and there were times when our relationship became other than either of us imagined that it would ever be.  But there was always love.  She never ceased to be my Mom, and I never ceased to be her son.  If we had treated each other as mere strangers, things would no doubt have been different.  But because we were “mother and son,” our relationship held firm, even through difficult times.

I believe that in remembering the Church is our Mother, we keep an important dimension in our faith and even in our critique.  My Mother, the Church, may be sick, but she is still my Mother.  Her illness may prevent her from providing things which I have a legitimate right to expect—but she is still my Mother.  We may experience days when the relationship is strained and far from what we might every have imagined it would be—but she is still my Mother.

I cannot speak for you, but I think remembering that the Church is our Mother provides us a necessary ingredient when times are bad.  If we lose it, we may forget that if we opt for “churchless Christianity,” we will name ourselves as “orphans” in that decision.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.