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Innovative and ancient, the ministry of Clearstory Collective

Innovative and ancient, the ministry of Clearstory Collective

-Photo courtesy of Jean-Christophe Benoist

The wail of a passing fire engine’s siren drowns out the prayers of about 40 people gathered around a table on a Main Street sidewalk in the bustling college town of Northampton, Mass.

Unfazed, the makeshift congregation incorporates the alarm -- and whatever crisis lies beneath it -- into the petitions they are in the midst of offering: prayers for people in the hospital, for people in the grip of addiction, for a woman’s mother.

“Lord, please stretch out your hands to protect those firefighters, and the people they’re trying to help,” says a young woman wearing an “Assassin’s Creed III” T-shirt.

With that, the worshippers recite the Lord’s Prayer in unison.

It’s Sunday evening at Cathedral in the Night, one of the founding ministries of Clearstory Collective, a network of churches and ministries in western Massachusetts intended for people seeking something other than conventional church worship. Sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, the collective and its members draw on ancient and modern church traditions in an effort to appeal to young people and others who might not otherwise be attracted to church.

Many of the member ministries will be familiar to anyone who follows young adult, collegiate and alternative ministry. The network includes midnight breakfasts for students studying for finals at Smith College and Mount Holyoke College, a monthly Taizé worship service, street ministries, an urban garden, pub theology, an online forum and a website that takes care to distinguish the collective from “the institutional church of the last 1700 years.”

Yet Clearstory Collective is different, because it aims to be more than the sum of its parts, creating a new but very old kind of ministry that helps churches and parachurch organizations collaborate and learn from each other. The collective is doing that not by rejecting institutions altogether, but by striving to create a productive tension within them.

Click here to read the entire story courtesy of Faith & Leadership  The opinions in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policies and positions of the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church.