Earlier this month, I had the great privilege to be present at the Sunday worship service of the 8th Day Faith Community in Washington, D.C. Their community is a great expression of what I’ve been calling Horizontal Church — a non-hierarchical, participatory expression of Christian community.
8th Day is an ecumenical Christian community with members who grew up in a variety of faith backgrounds or none at all. The community has has no clergy, but instead, members take turns leading parts of their shared worship (more about that in a moment). They consider themselves to be a community-on-behalf-of-the-larger-community. Their shared commitments to economic, racial, and environmental justice are central to their life together.
The worship experience at 8th Day is very participatory. I admit I’m not always a great judge of crowd size, so take this with a grain of salt, but I think there were maybe about 60 people there? The community used liturgy in a bulletin that was very similar to what I might find in my own Presbyterian tradition. People had signed up to lead different parts.
Each week, a different person gives the sermon. Occasionally, the community collectively holds open sermons, where a scripture is read and someone facilitates a larger group discussion. After the sermon, there was an extended time of prayer where many people prayed for others on behalf of the community. Members of the 8th Day Community also celebrate the communion meal at the table, sharing the prayers and breaking the bread. We all received communion as a part of this service.
It was very meaningful to see this happen and participate fully within it. Much of this is possible because of the learning and empowerment that takes place in 8th Day’s membership process, spiritual direction, and mission groups. Everyone is invited fully participate in the community’s life, with or without membership. Those who do decide to become covenant members take five classes (a lot of education happens here), engage in spiritual direction with one another, and join a mission group.
Mission groups are a core part of the vision for the 8th Day Community. Members are invited to participate in a group where they feel a special calling. Current groups are working to create relationships and build conversations about race, class, and disability; practicing spiritual disciplines to heal trauma; focusing upon theologies and practices of creativity; planning shared community worship; and supporting The Family Place and Jubilee Jumpstart, two organizations working with children and expectant mothers in Washington D.C.
I think there is a lot to learn from this model.
This post is part of a larger series. Feel free to check out the other pieces as well:
This Week: Horizontal Church
Horizontal Church: Who Speaks, Prays, and Preaches? — Why?
Horizontal Church: Participatory and Empowering (Part 1)
Horizontal Church: The Priesthood of All Believers and Organizing Collectives
Horizontal Church: Accountability
Horizontal Church: Christian Education