Replacing the church with churching

Timothy Murphy

One of Whitehead's notions is called the "fallacy of misplaced concreteness." That is when you take as concrete what is actually abstract. What if we applied this notion to the church?

For many people, the church is a building or location to which we may or may not be involved with. Here, the formal gathering place comes to take the place of the community. More positively, the church may be considered the people of a given faith community. We may be a "member" of the church or belong to it. This is definitely an improvement over the initial option of seeing the church as a building, but does it go far enough?

What if, rather than thinking about the church either as a building or even as the people of a faith community, we thought of it more as a verb: churching. As Whitehead might say, all real things we may observe are in actuality activities or processes. But what is this activity of churching? As I see it, churching is the activity or process of actualizing the way of Jesus in novel contexts. When we express this potential offered to us, this aim to which we strive, and are transformed in light of following this way, churching happens.

What might this mean for our buildings, budgets, and denominational structures, much less pension plans and clerical salaries? Perhaps they are not as essential as we may have thought. In fact, they may get in the way of churching. If churching is a way of living in the world, of interacting with others, perhaps our efforts to prop up decaying institutions have less to do with our own faithfulness and more to do with a lack of trust in the creative transformations the divine is offering to the world through us? Even an adherence to "process theology" may get in the way of faithful responses to the extent that it is used defensively to preserve what is near "satisfaction," the mainline church.

Perhaps it is time for us to let something new emerge, and what may seem at first like chaos may be the unfolding of a new value for ourselves and the planet: churching.



Timothy, love your succinct Whiteheadian definition of churching. Can't wait 'til your book comes out!

Since you brought it up in your blog ...

Hi Timothy,Since you opened up the churching can of worms, how would you like to review my new book, The Square Root of God: Mathematical Metaphors and Spiritual Tangents?Hope you're well,Tim

on your book

Tim,Let's talk. Email me directly at Murphy, Process and Faith