Due to COVID-19 and social distancing, everyone is experiencing church in their homes. A friend recently asked if this reminded me of my house church days. It got me thinking that she didn’t really understand what house church was all about.
Our family was part of a house church in Hamilton for eight years, and it was a rich, formative experience for all of us. It was also one of my first church experiences, and as a result it has made transitioning to “traditional” church a little challenging. Over the past year, I’ve had several conversations with friends about starting a house church here in Sarnia. People have a lot of questions about house church so this is my attempt to answer them based solely on my experience.
Is it a cult?
Good grief NO! There was nothing strange or sinister about our house church. We were part of The Free Methodist Church in Canada, and we had an ordained FM minister in our midst. Our church was the natural evolution of our small group which had been meeting for almost two years. The majority of house or home churches in Canada are affiliated with a legit religious denomination.
As someone who knew very little about God or church, traditional church seemed weird. Strangers poking their noses into my personal, private search for God, my kids heading to the church basement for Sunday school or nursery, tithing, praying, and communion were all weird and unfamiliar. Prior to house church, our family attended a local church for a few months. On the first Sunday of Advent, we were kindly invited to light the advent candle while the pastor read scripture. We went up together and flawlessly lit one of the decorative candles that were on stage instead of the candle in the advent wreath because we had no idea what an advent wreath was.
For me, house church was a small, safe space to ask all the questions and learn together with my family. It was an intimate circle of people to pray and journey with. Sounds a lot like an awesome small group, but it was more than that. We worshipped, retreated, celebrated, and cared for each other and others together. It was how I understood church should be.
We didn’t have a blueprint for house church. It was more like a collaborative art piece that was continually growing and adapting. When we started out we met every other Sunday and continued our Wednesday night small group. As babies and toddlers grew, we moved to meeting every Sunday and adjusted the time as needed. We met at different houses (read: whoever’s was cleanest) and shared worship, leading, and snacks. If something didn’t work, we changed it. House church allowed us to grow in our relationship with God, each other, and the people in our lives we wanted to connect with.
I am in no way disparaging “traditional” church. The various expressions of church in our denomination is one of the best things about it. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to church. When we are allowed to go out in the world again, I’m going to resume my house church conversations and see where they go.
by Alison McKinnon