For the past few months, Junia’s Journal has had the pleasure of joining a long-running home eucharistic community that has been meeting on the first Sunday of each month for more than ten years. According to the group’s founders, Lyn and Brian, it’s called Home Church because “it started in our home.” Members share the readings, the prayers, and the consecration. For an offertory, the group selects a charity together each month.
Why did this couple decide to start their own inclusive community? Brian answers, “We had dropped our affiliation with the institution… At the same time my history as a priest, my study of theology, had left me with the conviction that ordination is an overlay. The baptized can gather as they wish and celebrate Eucharist, which is how the celebration of Eucharist originated in the early church.”
Lyn continues, “We thought we would start with some of our fellow parishioners back from St. Therese, and also maybe invite friends we knew who weren’t necessarily Catholic , but who might like to join us.” The community never outgrew Lyn and Brian’s home – they put the word out, “but we didn’t want to put the word out too far.”
The beauty of having church in a home is just that. It makes me think of the early communities when people gathered. When the Home Church group gathered in person, they would pass the presider’s “book” around the room and take turns leading the group in prayer. “We all are priests within this gathering,” they agree. After the liturgy, the group enjoyed what they called “the non-coffee and donut gathering,” where people had a chance to share casually and intimately with each other. On some weekends, Lyn and Brian also attended Holy Wisdom in Olympia, but as time passed, the “Home Church” became their main spiritual home. And their church.
“I have a hard time going back to the institutional church now,” laughs one member. “The language drives me nuts. I call it the conglomeration of men.”
Once a month, Home Church meets on Zoom for an inclusive liturgy in which all participate. Like other inclusive communities, there is a shared homily, in which all participants feel free to break open the Word and share their thoughts. One participant describes his reverence for this aspect of the worship service: “The distinction for me, besides the communitarian aspect, is being talked to vs. a conversation. Sharing about the Word brings a whole avenue that doesn’t exist in the institution. All the different perspectives I hear here are totally amazing.”
“There was a paradigm shift for me,” adds another longtime member. “This is the way it was done before the institutional church.”
Someone else chimes in: “There’s a personal element here at Home Church that didn’t exist in the institutional church.”
The liturgy itself, the preface and the eucharistic prayers, are inclusive in every way– not just gender inclusive but embracing the seasons and places in the liturgical year. Brian has written a few of the prayers over the years, and borrows from other sources – for example, the eucharistic prayer of Hippolytus from the 2nd century. The members appreciate the liturgical richness, the poetry, in contrast to what they call “the wooden translation of the Latin” which is used by parishes today. Community members particularly appreciate how seriously Brian and Lyn have taken the call to form Home
Church and craft the liturgies over the years.
It has been an adjustment to move to Zoom since the pandemic, and there are sometimes technical difficulties, but overall the community feels the same closeness as always. As one member puts it, “When we can’t be present physically, we know that we are being prayed for. I like that feeling, knowing I’m being held.”
Still, it can be a challenge. “I struggle with the Zoom, says another member. “For me, I work all day long on the computer. I miss the gatherings afterward, the non-coffee-and-donuts.”
Lyn adds, “I resisted it, but am used to it now. We don’t have to worry if the house is clean!” she jokes. “Having Zoom has enabled us who ordinarily wouldn’t be able to be with us to be present. People from far away as Georgia are able to come,” notes Brian.
Even when Home Church met in person, people sometimes drove long distances to attend. “I grew up Catholic, I’ve been in different kind of communities, and the concept of faith based groups that were doing their own liturgies is not new to me,” says a member who used to drive from the EastSide. “I would travel 15 or 20 miles from Issaquah to come and participate. I asked, “Why am I driving to Seattle to participate in this group? But every time I showed up I felt better leaving than when I had arrived.”
There’s an honesty and a vulnerability in the small group, the Home Church members agree, and it feels more “alive” than sitting in a big congregational assembly. Junia’s Journal agreed, and said that was why many former St. Pat’s members now preferred to come to Living Water.
The only non-Catholic in the group, to whom the others responded with much loving laughter, cherishes the inclusivity of Home Church. “I always felt like I could be heard, I could be included, I could always put in my two cents worth and it would be accepted. Everyone was so welcoming and could share freely, be accepted and loved.” Another member agrees: “When I came to Home Church for the first time I felt so welcomed. It felt like coming home – so not only was it is Brian and Lyn’s home, but it was such a welcoming spirit, aspirit of inclusivity.”
“I’m not sure who told me about this Home Church, but I’m so thankful – I didn’t understand how you could have a church, you know, not in a church.”
The early Christians would have understood perfectly.