What Happens When We Stop Practicing Our Practices?

Posted: April 28, 2011 in Theology
Christ washing the feet of the Apostles, by Gi...

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Last week throughout the world Church of the Brethren members participated in one of their distinctive practices: love-feast and communion preceded by feet-washing. One of the many conversations in recent years has been the decline in attendance at these services. In his recent book, Desiring the Kingdom, James K. A. Smith argues for the importance of practices and how they affect the community at large. It has been argued previously that this particular rite within the Brethren community is a distinctive practice. What this means specifically is that by participating in this rite the community’s identity is shaped. Not only is it shaped in how others perceive it, but more significantly it shapes how the community perceives itself thus affecting its behaviors.

If our practices affect the shaping of our identity in community, then what happens when we stop practicing our distinctive practices? At what point will we cease being what makes us Brethren? I know this is a philosophical question, but it makes me wonder if people stop wanting to practice these distinctive practices, then are they saying that they want to stop being who they are?

  1. Joshua Brockway says:

    Well, in the Modern frame not a whole lot happens. This was evident in one description I heard recently that basically said don’t let these become mere habit or empty ritual.

    But, in light of Smith’s work- everything changes when we don’t practice our practices. And I happen to agree with him there….but you could have guessed I’d say that!

    • Andrew says:

      What is frustrating about all this is that in a time when it seems that the community is desiring to rediscover their identity, it looks to Modernity and its mechanisms to define it. Ultimately no amount of visioning and planning will change the community’s identity if it stops practicing its practices.

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