If Churches were Parks by Linda Cannell*
If we tore down our churches buildings and replaced them with parks, would the buildings be missed? If churches were parks, there would be trees and grass and places for pleasant walks, neighborhood families enjoying the changing seasons, and our “old ones” sitting on benches telling children stories of their lives and faith.
In the fall, as the leaves changed from green to yellow, orange and red, we could invite our friends and neighbors to corn roast and BBQs; invite them to laugh with us, talk with us, and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation – in the park. We could leave the children something wonderful in a world gone mad.
In the winter we could roll in the snow with the neighborhood children, throw snowballs, create snow sculptures, and get to know each other again as we walked under tree heavy with hoar frost. At Christmas we could string colored lights, decorate a Christmas tree, savor the story of nativity, and sing carols under quiet stars.
If churches were parks, we would have to forsake our games of power and our dreams of empire for pleasant walks, snow forts, corn roasts, Christmas trees, carol sings. Easter pageants, and heart-to-heart talks with those who need to know why we still believe in God. If our churches were parks, all people could gather there; they could come whenever they wished, for there would be no locked doors or security windows on our parks – no stained-glass windows to hide behind. Members of the church eating lunch in the park could strike up a conversation with a business person, or admire the multicolors of a group of teenagers and ask them if they are afraid of the world we have created for them, or angry because of the future we may have taken away from them.
Of course we would find pain in our parks: lonely people, unhappy children, sullen youth. We might fear those who would hurt us and steal from us. If churches were parks, we would have to confront the world outside our buildings. We would have to be those who make peace and speak of redemption and hope rather than those who hide behind fortress walls and wish the world away.
When God started the world, He put his man and woman in a park. He chose to walk and talk with His creation in a park. When we were cast out of the park, we begun to build towers, empires, cities, and temples. We had to acquire and possess – not only the present but the past and the future. We found ways to control our world and other persons. It’s hard to do this in a park.
Obviously the “park” image cannot be pressed too far, but it does suggest that there are certain qualities that should be nurtured in congregations – especially when children are present.
Note* (page 148) from Children Matter by Scottie May, Beth Posterski, Catherine Stonehouse and Linda Cannell