Pirate Church

A few weeks ago I wrote a snappy article for Faith and Leadership, an e-magazine from Duke Divinity, on how a pirate store could save the church. I don’t always understand my obsession with “the church” when it comes to writing, speaking, and critiquing. I’ve insisted my whole life that I don’t really belong in one, nor do I ever intend to work for one. But for some reason, I have very strong opinions on how the church should behave. You can read them here.

An abbreviated version of what I wrote is essentially this: I think the church should behave like a pirate store, that is, Dave Eggers’ 826 Valencia project.

Why? Because my generation (and perhaps others) want to be a part of something that has a sense of whimsy. There are other healthy reasons why the San Francisco-based non-profit is so appealing, but I name the fact that it sells pirate paraphernalia out of its front store as one of its strongest lures.

After the article published, I received an email from a local divinity school graduate who had begun looking into the possibility of starting an 826 writing center here in Durham with another friend. Was I interested in joining the conversation?

Hell, yes. It’s an easy sell when you’re able to contemplate creative ways to partner with your community. We could get kids interested in maps! Or give them Dictaphones to become citizen journalists! At the very least, we could spazz out to Justin Beiber beats together.

But here’s what makes me sad about all of this. Getting me involved in church these days feels much more cumbersome. Serious. Daunting. Dreadful.

Why am I – and potentially others in my generation – trying to find church-like communities outside of the church these days? I’m wrestling, like Jacob and the angel of God in Genesis, and begging God to give me the blessing of true church. Even if it means I am walking to the chapel with a limp.

One response to “Pirate Church

  1. Why might you and others in your generation be trying to find church-like communities outside the church? Could it be because so many congregations lack whimsy? Could it be because the Sunday morning part of church looks exactly like it did 50 years ago when my grandmother was the choir director at her tiny Presbyterian church in Itasca, Texas. I enjoyed it when I was 10. I’ve been feeling a little sad, the way you described, for much of my adult life. It did have a happy relationship with a congregation at one point, but then there was a crisis in the leadership and it was never the same again. Churches are human institutions; seems like we ought to be able to create more of them that support and encourage humans. I can imagine that God might get a little bored on Sunday mornings as well.

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