In 1984, shortly before he died, James Hopewell, an American pastor and theologian completed the third draft of his first and only book called simply Congregation. In it he observed that people when chosing to which church and congregation to belong approach the task in a similar way “to the way that a family examines a house … in which [they] might [live]” (Hopewell, Congregation, p. 19).
Typically, he says, when househunters are looking for a new home they look at properties with a mixture of four broad perspectives:
- househunters look not only at the house in which they are interested but also the surrounding ENVIRONMENT. They ask questions such as is this house and neighbourhood both suitable and secure? Could we see ourselves living in this area?
- houses are also viewed from a FUNCTIONAL (or mechanical) perspective – that is, does this house (or congregation) offer shelter and protection from unexpected external forces? How well does this place do its job?
- the third factor is what Hopewell calls the ORGANIC perspectiveâ€”the househunter tries to tie their family’s story to the property, envisioning how they might use this dwelling. “Will this be a happy home for us?” “Does the story of this place resonate with my story?”
- the SYMBOLIC perspectiveâ€”househunters look at the capacity for a potential house to reflect their character. “What does this place suggest about who we are?”
I suspect that Jane and I are going to be looking for a house in which we might live in much the same way that people look for a congregation.