In February I wrote about the first “mark of the church” – kerygma, which I defined rather expansively beyond preaching, to include all the ways we share our stories and our ideas, including religious education.
The other four “marks” are equally important. Diakonia is defined as service – what the deacons do, from a literal sort of waiting on tables to taking care of the building and other tools of our congregation. This one I have expanded to include the great care takings of our lives – how we care for democracy, and the planet, how we combat racism, and how we work towards a world of social justice, what Christians call the Kingdom of God (or the Kin-dom), what we might call Beloved Community.
Third is Koinonia, literally commonality, fellowship, community, how we care for each other and enrich each other’s lives by our connections, by working together on great goals, or having fun together, by shared meals, and all the ways we strengthen our sense of connection with each other and the world.
Finally comes Leitorgia, literally the work of the people, translated as liturgy, which I see as the worship and rituals, the singing and art making by which we acknowledge the important events in our lives and the life of the world. This would include life rites of passage, joys and sorrows, solemn vigils and celebratory parties.
Of course, these four are not the only things a congregation does, but they are ways by which individuals come together in community to strengthen the spiritual lives of people so that they can bless the life of the world. Members and friends contribute in many ways, and in different ways at different times of their lives, depending on their circumstances and gifts – making coffee, providing leadership, teaching, singing, caring for the garden. Everyone needs to be financially generous to keep us going, though generosity may be a small or large amount of money.
But congregations don’t exist for themselves, or even primarily for the immediate lives of the members. People can do together what they cannot do on their own. You can join with others to strengthen democracy, buoyed by the fellowship and leadership of others. You can learn and find spiritual energy (and time and resources) to make a difference. Congregations exist to transform lives, so that people become the best that is in them. Together you can bless the world with your love.