An eye opening moment for us in University Hill Congregation came when we were introduced to five marks of Christian communal life. We discovered them in Maria Harris’ book “Fashion Me a People: Curriculum in the Church”. In it Harris testifies that the creation of educational curriculum in congregational life involves a holy participation in God’s fashioning of a people. She posits that the medium which is the material of God’s artistic endeavour in forming the church are a set of forms – or marks – of Christian community that are first named in the book of Acts (Acts 2:42, 44-47): “There we find in one place the most detailed description of the first Christian community doing what will in time become the classical activities of ecclesial ministry: kerygma, proclaiming the word of Jesus’ resurrection; didache, the activity of teaching; liturgia, coming together to pray and re-present Jesus in the breaking of bread; koinonia, or community; and diakonia, caring for those in need”(p. 16).
With these five marks of Christian communal life we are given a language to speak about the shape of the community that God is forming among us. They act as lenses through which we glimpse signs of new life in the garden of God’s kingdom that is breaking in upon us. As with any new language we have learned this grammar and vocabulary step by step, taking time to focus on each mark in particular. But the purpose of a language is to become proficient so that the community is capable of improvisational speech. This creative speaking and living is what is seen and heard when a congregation learns to live the gospel language that is its core curriculum. The marks – like words in speech and like crops in a garden – form an eco-system that cultivates the well-being of the whole. These five fundamental expressions of Christian life work in concert with one another, encouraging the growth of God’s glory in the congregation’s life together.
Watch for weekly postings over the next five Tuesdays that offer a description of each of these marks through the season of Lent.