Our House Church
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Our House Church
There have been many important archeological discoveries in the 20th century. Immediately, one thinks of Tutankhamun or the discovery of Troy. In western Syria--not that many years ago--archeologists excavated the city of Dura Europas. In its heyday, it was a prosperous and important commercial center on the eastern frontier of the Roman world, one of the empire's most important links with the caravan routes to and from the East.
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Of the many interesting discoveries there were two of special importance. One was an almost intact synagogue of the first century of the Common Era. It was decorated with Hellenistic styled murals of Jewish patriarchs and prophets. The other building was a house, but a house adapted for some purpose not clear until they excavated one particular room. In it they found what was first thought to be a bathtub. But over this tub they found a mural of a young beardless shepherd lad carrying a lamb on his shoulders and...a cross. Yes, the tub was a baptistery and the house had been adapted for worship. They found the earliest known structure intentionally used for Christian worship- a house church.
It is easy for us to forget that the first followers of Jesus carried on their religious and community life in houses. New Testament and early non-canonical Christian sources attest to this. It would not be until the conversion of the Emperor Constantine that Christians would build churches styled after basilicas, the great public buildings used for Roman civic and legal administration. With the move into basilicas, worship and life changed. Great public rituals and authority became the order of the day. Intimate celebration and fellowship were lost.
All the antecedent congregations of All Souls Bethlehem had large buildings with the usual accoutrements of prosperous Protestants; Tiffany stained glass, 17th century paintings, pipe organs and silver. But over time our earthly dwellings did not fit our needs. We were smaller but wanted to remain a progressive/liberal presence in an increasingly conservative Jewish and Muslim neighborhood. To do this, we shucked off our shell and moved into a house adapted for our worship and community life.
It is not for everyone. Some need the traditional setting. Others are uncomfortable with the intimate and informal nature of the space and that's all right. No one way of being religious, and no one way of being a church fits everyone's needs. However, if you need an open hearted, open-minded community of faith in an intimate, informal setting, give us a try!
All Souls Bethelehem Church, Brooklyn, NY 11218-5902