In Eastern Christianity, an iconostasis is a wall filled with icons and religious artefacts that separates the nave from the sanctuary. There’s a more than usually extreme set of liturgies and rubrics for priests, bishops and abbesses to follow which govern its use and practice. It’s principal use is as a separator. As far away from me as might be possible to get.
Local churches create their own real or virtual iconostases. Sets of rules, gates through which some can pass and others cannot. To a greater or lesser extent, almost every denomination does it.
I was speaking to someone the other day about education. They pointed out that a classroom situation is one of the most artificial settings kids ever have to face. They are all trying to or more usually being compelled to do the same thing at the same time with people of their own age. In a sense, we do this when we walk through the the doors of the church. is saying the same thing at the same time any necessary guarantee of meaning? Perhaps it’s hardwired into us to develop a politics of specificity in what we do in terms of collective spiritual response and how we gain access to transcendence. But, what if such politics were absent? If disbelief can be suspended this far, what might church look like?
A large room with a big open central gathering space. perhaps with big tables. What might be on them – or better – what might we like to bring to put on them? As community members, we bring our own objects to the table, worship toys, ritual objects, flyers, teaching material, artwork. We work at tables, we play games at them, some of us pray sitting at them, some are places where we read, discuss, argue. A table is an altar, what might we put on it? Around the edge, sofas, coffee tables, small corners , places of refuge, perhaps with cushions and soft lighting. ‘Going to church’ might end up with an hour of prayer in front of a candle, singing with the kids, writing songs and working them out prophetically together, developing a eucharistic liturgy, belonging to a ‘thinking space’ where discussion and teaching in loose seminar format might be happening, people drifting from one space to another.
How would community work? How would Eucharist work? How would pastoral and prophetic leadership work? Membership? I think the only two criteria might be a desire to meet and interact with the Creator of the Universe and a willingness to leave prejudice, preconceptions and pride at the door, in expectation of which face of the cube God presents to us at any one time.