As I work Sunday, both morning and evening, I have started listening to an Anglican worship service. While I am temporarily separated from my Christian community, I am able to hear the reading of scripture, and to pray with other Christians while distant.
This separation from Christian community has brought me to think about what is important. There is a lot that I love about the house church — and the intimacy of small groups — sermons on the radio or internet mixed with a house church could replace almost everything people expect from church. Almost all of the time clergy are not necessary. (as a Quaker, I might go so far to argue that they really are not strictly necessary.)
As a seminarian, I would hope that there is a place for vocational ministry. I would hope that there is a place for spiritual direction, personal pastoral care and visitation, etc. The truth is that while people are well meaning — so many of us are miserable comforters, and sometimes we are rather foolish when giving advice. While my seminary education will not assure that I will become a skilled caregiver, nor will it ensure that I am not a fool — it should train me to avoid several of the worst pitfalls. The house-church might not be equipped to deal with a death, or to prepare for a wedding. When I am separated from my community, I lose my connection with both ordinary fellowship, and the periodic crisis (whether joyful or sorrowful) that my community faces. If we threw out training and recognition that some have gifts that others do not — we would be limited to the well meaning blundering of busybodies. If we only came together in small groups — we would not be able to share the burden of life changing events.
If we get our needs for sermons, etc. outside of church — and should focus on fellowship and being a community, as someone with a religious vocation, I think my role would be to focus on pastoral care and spiritual direction. I would not need to worry about impressing people that I can make a clever speech, but instead demonstrate that I care about their lives and their spirituality. I for one will not be jealous of the radio — instead, hope I to strengthen individuals and the community. When it comes time to leave for another place — I pray they are strong enough to make it without me.