Chapter 3: The New Land (1)
Priesthood of Believers
A church cannot take seriously the concept of the priesthood of all believers without conceiving of itself as a seminary for the training of the laity for the priesthood. The School of Christian Living had been doing just that through all the years-training its members to be servant leaders.
The movement to the New Land could not have been made without a deep trust in the capacity of lay persons to be priests, but that trust would have been sadly misplaced had there not been at the heart of the community one hundred twenty lay persons disciplined in the devotional life and trained to be servant leaders. The risk was there, nonetheless, because one never fully becomes a leader until one has found the courage to lead.
We are not teachers because we have learned teaching methods. We are teachers when day after day through our speaking and our listening we impart the knowledge that each one of us is a teacher.
We are not religious persons because we read the Bible, pray, and say the proper words. We are persons of faith when we are exercising the capacity that each of us has to be a priest-when we are about the business of healing the divisions that exist within us, between us, and among us. The strange thing about our being priests is that we heal ourselves as we engage in binding up the wounds of others.
At the heart of each of the new communities was a School of Christian Living, offering the same five classes that had always been required for membership: Old Testament, New Testament, Doctrine, Ethics, and Christian Growth. Each of them would teach self-knowledge. Training for the priesthood, when all is said and done, is learning to be one’s self. And priesting or serving is creating hospitable structures where people can feel safe enough to do the arduous work of becoming themselves–the icons of God that they are intended to be. That is all that we have to do in life-be ourselves, connect to that deep place in us from which living waters flow.
In addition to having its own school and leadership, each of the new churches had its own council, budget and mission groups. An Ecumenical Counsel, made up of two representatives from each of the communities, was elected to deal with matters of interest to all of the communities.
Now fourteen years have gone by since the new churches were formed. Dunamis, the smallest of them, floundered along for a number of years, and finally became too bogged down in interpersonal problems to continue. The other communities had their own struggles, but managed to put down deep roots and to flourish. In time four new communities were born, so that today the faith communities of The Church of The Saviour are nine in number.