-Rev Melissa Fain-
Sunday morning, at about 10:30 am, I prepare communion, set up the sanctuary, and adjust the camera. This all only takes about five minutes. The I pray. I pray for those who will be watching, and I pray for the community as a whole. I also pray for myself, because what will happen at 11 am is nothing short of war.
In the beginning...
The first livecasts of Fig Tree Christian was made up of three spaces. Literally.
There was the fellowship space. This was where we could create, build and just talk. These first livecasts had this time at the beginning. It was haphazard, and didn't work. It was moved to the end out of necessity. This happened in a literal fellowship hall.
Then we moved to the foyer (or Narthex) for education. This was where the sermon, if you could call it a sermon took place. It was a place where questions could be asked. It was less a sermon, and more a conversation. This was the part that I most loved about early Fig Tree. Actually conversing versus just listening.
Finally, we went downstairs and did worship. The first worship was absolutely nothing. That's how things begin. God cleans the space and starts creating.
Since that first livecast, we've moved a few times. The first move was to my basement. The pieces still remained. Three spaces, that were different.
Then we moved to The Daily Grind. Three became two. The fellowship time was, at first moved to the dining area of the coffee house. Then, education and worship became the two sides of the conference area in their private room. It was decided to make a private group for fellowship. It was a move I lament. Fellowship never really took root the way I had hoped it would. Part of that was the identity of those who were drawn to Fig Tree. They were broken and many were afraid. I couldn't and wouldn't force them to communicate.
Then it stopped. Without physical assistance, I couldn't do it anymore. Not the livecast side of things. Fig Tree wasn't a church, it was a ministry. It was quickly becoming a church.
When Covid-19 hit the United States, it was out of sympathy for all those displaced from their sanctuaries, that the livecast went live again. This time in one space in my basement. A sacred space, set aside for worship.
This time is different. Not only can I feel it, but everyone being online means the intentional nature of it all is vital.
This time, I'm at war.
Wars happen in different ways. This war is fighting for identity, and the struggle is real every Sunday at 11 am EST.
First and foremost, I'm fighting against Goliath for the identity of online church. I've written about this multiple times. New church plants are lovingly grown and then the tree is cut short, and old fruit is grafted in its place. It serves to meet the needs of those on the inside while ignoring the growing number dying of spiritual thirst on the outside. Allowing a plant to becoming what it was always supposed to become has become an epic war. This is part of the reason the word "church" has been dropped from our name. Churches have expectations and defined labels for what it is supposed to be. Fig Tree is a ministry. A ministry is an unknown force, that takes shape depending on who that ministry is ministering to. Part of that ministry is defining what is "online church." Now that every old plant wants a piece of it, it is vital that God's purpose isn't cut short and grafted. Let me rephrase this the way I've said it in the past: The old church lovingly takes the pruning sheers and oh so gently cuts the bud from the new plant, and oh so tenderly, grafts themselves to the sweet root of a dead call. We cannot let that happen here. God's plant deserves to grow in the root established for her.
Secondly, I'm fighting against myself in a battle of identity. The online world is a world of content creators. There are unwritten rules to how content is shared in this way. Those rules don't magically disappear because the global Church has entered it. At the exact same time, I'm attempting to bring the sacred online. Up to this point, those things have not melded well. They still don't. On a Sunday morning you are watching me adjust that tension between the two. And believe me, I fully know how cringe worthy it has been as I've traversed that tension. If I did a normal sermon it would sound scripted and inauthentic. Yet, being completely unscripted is, well, woof. This is finding that correct middle ground that will be authentic and engaging. It can't sound preachy, but it still needs to be sacred. There are those of you who understand, and to you, I can't even express how grateful I am to you.