Progressive Christian Channel
A Church Online: An Interview with Bruce Reyes-Chow
How will your "church online" be different from an "online church"?
We're not going to give into the frenzy that often happens online. There's a speed with which things happen online that doesn't happen face to face. One of our roles as leaders will be to move with a deliberate urgency through everything that we do. Yes, we're going to move faster than a traditional church, but it's not going to be a church of Twitter that moves at lightning speed, or a church of Facebook that only has a certain platform. It's going to be an online expression of church and with that church part we have to be deliberate about bringing voices in and community.
I imagine one of the challenges of being a church online is that you lose some sense of control over your community. Would you call this an "open source" community?
We call it "open and sourced." A lot of folks think open source is a free for all, and that's not what it's like. In open source software there's a designer that is the hub from which all the interaction happens and so there's a role for everybody. That's what we're going to claim. It's not to exclude anybody, but it's to say in this particular manifestation of church online, this is our space and we're going to help mold it and craft it and those who feel connected to that will move with it. And part of the openness is that people are going to throw stuff out there and some of it may be really cool. We're watching everything, but not trying to control.
So I'm assuming that since this is a church plant of sorts, you've gotten the blessing of the denomination?
(Laughter) No! We've gotten the blessing of no one! I did check in with all the people I thought it was important to check in with, but not to get permission. If we wanted to have affiliation and a call implication right off, we'd go to a local body and say we're starting a fellowship and we want you to recognize the call of Bruce and others on the leadership team. We're not doing that. We're not going to seek denominational blessing until we're really sure this is going to go. We still have to look at funding models. This will be tent-making for everyone at this point.
Who is your target congregant? Who is this church for?
We're targeting folks who are probably pretty progressive theologically or politically, have some kind of yearning for faith in their life, could be isolated by geography or circumstance, and folks who are dabbling in church and Christianity. We want to be an expression that expands what's out there, not just a liberal or progressive voice, but one that's founded in our understanding of who Jesus Christ is.
We're creating a space where people can really just be church together. A place where people can pray together, serve together, give of their time and resources together, and make change in the world. Just like any church wants to be. We're trying to reach the kind of folks that everybody's trying to reach, and I feel like we have a unique time and space right now to do this.
Will there be any physical, non-virtual gatherings of this community?
We're toying with a meet-up model, so that as people become members, we have a map where you can begin to see clusters of where people are. I think that's going to be our answer to some of the sacraments; we'll do some creative stuff around people actually getting together. I'd also love to, once a year, find a seminary or retreat center that hosts us [so we can] have our congregational meeting face to face. We'd webcast it of course, too, but a meeting face to face where a good number of us get together in one space.
Deborah Arca joined the Patheos team after more than ten years managing programs for the Program in Christian Spirituality at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. Deborah has also been a youth minister, a director of Christian Education and music/theatre programs for young people and has served as a music director for worship and special retreats.