n this episode, I am joined by the wonderful scholar Taylor Petrey for a conversation on “church.” Our goal was to try to open up the concept of church to allow more breathing room so we might consider it beyond a particular religion and its various leadership, ritual, and community forms. In the first part of our discussion, Taylor leads us through the origins of the term and understandings of it in the New Testament and early centuries of Christianity. We discuss whether Jesus deliberately tried to set up a church with a particular organizational structure that was to be perpetuated following his death. This leads us to briefly reconsider the story of Apostasy and Restoration that have been emphasized within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We also consider “church” as it is used in Latter-day Saint scriptures.
The second half of our discussion is more personal than historical or theological. How do we approach church as participating members who have studied, or at least become conscious enough of, the difficult aspects of churches and their teachings, and as organizations that naturally focus on “administering” their affairs and providing messaging that will be safe and digestible for the majority of its adherents, rather than “ministering” to and feeding each and every member’s particular needs? We ask about what church means in our lives. We conclude with messages of appreciation, as well, for the many good things a church can provide, and, of course, I throw in my pitch for the secret to thriving within a structured faith community (no matter its set-up) as being our willingness to do our own inner work and commune directly with God rather than imagine we are forced only to approach the Divine through a church’s authoritative structure and leaders. Interesting and better “questions” are far superior when it comes to our spiritual lives than are “answers”!