Sunday, September 24, 2006

Whose Church is it, Anyway? -

Wife of Bath and I spent pretty much all day cutting the grass and edging the grounds at our Episcopal church yesterday. "About two hours", the guy said. Well, if you've used a riding mower before, and you don't do the edging, and if you don't mow half the grassy parking lot, and get out a blower to clean up the clippings in the street . . .

While doing this we were basically the only members of the parish around, so we were running in and out of the building. Rather than a key lock they have a combination lock, because it's expected that most members of the parish will have access to the building. This was my chance to explore. Not a single room or office was locked, other than the AV room in the balcony. Not even the office or the rector's office was locked. The library was unlocked. I had access to all of it.

I couldn't help but contrast that to my experience in the LDS church. I'm in the presidency of a stake-level auxiliary, and I haven't had a key to the building in years. Even when I had to teach a weekly class I had to wait for someone to let me in. Even as ward clerk I didn't have access to the library. It was easier to get into Ft Knox than our ward library.

One way we know who has "the power" in the LDS church is by who has keys to the building. There are some things in our current building only the stake presidency has keys to. Heaven help us if we need to get to some of the lights and nobody from the stake presidency is there. Yet another thing that reinforces the authority of the leaders. I've begun to notice how much of what we do in the LDS church is designed to reinforce the authority of the leaders, but that's a tangent for another time.

So, whose church is it, anyway? Obviously not mine. I can only get into the building when somebody in authority grants me permission. Even then I'm restricted by whether the person has the right authority for the library, the kitchen, etc. So it's not really my church. It's the leadership's church. I only have the access privileges they give me.

By contrast our Episcopal church is my church. I can get in the building any time I want to. They trust me to use good judgment in what I do with my access.

It feels weird to be trusted, but in the end it's a good feeling.


Sister Mary Lisa said...

I have keys, as a lowly second couneselor in primary. I'm going tonight to leave them and my 3 ring binder in the primary closet since I asked to be released last week. I like what you said here, though, and it's basically true. You have to get permission from someone in authority for everything. I was astounded when I found out that I had to get WRITTEN PERMISSION from my non-member husband in order to get a temple recommend. I wonder if I'd have had to get this if I was a man, and was married to a non-member wife.

annegb said...

When we used to meet for AA at the Presbyterian Church, they gave us keys. I thought it was great that I, an LDS alcoholic, was trusted more by the Presbyterians than my own church and I often shook my keys around and said, loud and proud, "I can go in the Presbyterian Church any time I want, you guys."