I traveled to Bloomington, Illinois this weekend to speak at a women’s conference at CrossWinds Community Church. I saw a lot in my going and coming and have had a hard time deciding which sight to describe. I met many gracious, gifted and good-hearted women, but one visual memory keeps niggling me.
I arrived at CrossWinds around 4 pm on Friday. They purchased and occupied an old, vacated church building in downtown Bloomington about a year ago. It was a one hundred year old Methodist church with the architecture indicative of its time— gorgeous stain glass windows, dark wood trim and matching pews with rounded backs arranged in semi-circles, creating an unusually cozy feeling.
CrossWinds left much of the original sanctuary but then added the elements of contemporary culture—a large arced frame overhead that housed stage and spot lights and several LCD’s, as well as a expansive screen on the center wall. The platform was divided between the worship band on the left and the backdrop for Kid’s Stuff, a family service, on the right. (It kind of reminded me of the set from Sesame Street.)
I found myself studying the combination of elements—old and new, traditional and contemporary, sacred and theatrical—and tried to wrap my mind around them. Honestly, the mixture was all a bit awkward. Please don't hear that as a criticism. CrossWinds eclectic sanctuary is symbolic of our time as the church decides what we bring with us from the past and what we leave behind; what we retain of sacred space and practices and what we innovate; what we keep from historical Christian tradition and what new expressions we offer to attract people of today.
Of all that I saw this weekend, I have thought more about the sanctuary at CrossWinds and it’s emblematic statement of the discomfited and transitional times we are in as the church. We don't know how to be in our culture--one that is increasingly secular and which views Christianity as largely irrelevant. We are trying everything we can think of to become a legitimate attraction. Here's a thought: what if we put more energy and focus on moving into the world instead of trying to get the world to come to us?