Ask Caritas: “Is Caritas a Church?”
At Caritas, people frequently asked us to define exactly what we are. Is Caritas a church? A nonprofit organization? A community group?
It’s a fair question. After all, we set out to reinvent church, so it’s not surprising that we don’t look like a church — at least not the kind of church most people expect to find.
Caritas is a church. But by design, there are important differences between us and traditional churches. And most of those differences boil down to the way we define the concept of “church.”
Here’s what the word “church” really means
The word “church” seems like it should be self-explanatory. For some people, it’s a building with bells and steeples. For others, it’s an auditorium or sanctuary with a stage, sound system and video projectors.
But “church” was never meant to be about a building. In the New Testament, the Greek word for church is ekklesia, which literally means the “called out ones.”
So, in a practical sense, “church” is a gathering of Christians who have been “called out of” their everyday lives to gather together for a variety of reasons. It’s not a building, a style of worship service or a list of ministry programs.
At it’s core, “church” is about people.
For Caritas, church is about community
Our understanding of what the word “church” means isn’t unique. For years, we’ve heard churches across the theological spectrum say that their focus is people, not buildings or programs.
But this understanding of church usually doesn’t mesh with reality. Week after week, traditional and contemporary churches throughout the Rochester area invest enormous amounts of time, energy and money on the latest ministry programs, constant building maintenance and other things that have limited (if any) impact on the everyday lives of the people they serve.
At Caritas, church really is about community. Instead of investing our lives in programs or other distractions, we’re invested in each other. As much as possible, we try to be part of each other’s lives during the week — not just on Sunday. We don’t agree on everything, but we share a love of Jesus and a deep commitment to our sense of community.
We see ourselves as the natural evolution of the historical Church
One of the most beautiful things about the Church is its ability to adapt over time. Today’s traditional and contemporary churches are very different from the churches you might have experienced a century or even fifty years ago.
At Caritas, we honor and respect traditional and historical expressions of church. In fact, we sometimes incorporate traditional and historical elements into our gatherings.
But ultimately, we see ourselves as the natural evolution of the historical Church. Although we don’t always get it right, we’re translating the core elements of Christian faith into an expression of church that makes sense to us.
If you’re frustrated with traditional and contemporary churches, don’t walk away from the idea of church quite yet. Give Caritas a shot. We’re definitely a church — we’re just not like any church you’ve experienced before.
Ready for a change?
Join us for a weekly gathering and discover what can happen when you set aside your concept of what church should be and experience what church can be.