I am often asked, “Who belongs to the independent sacramental movement?” Membership is an issue deserving consideration from a number of angles.
First, we have what might be called the Fenderson level. The Fendersons are a family that anyone can belong to, if they simply say so. It is the same with the ISM. If you say you are an independent sacramental Christian, then – by automagical hocus pocus (hoc est corpus meum) – you are one. Fendersons have the additional power of making anyone else into a Fenderson, even if they don’t want to be. Unfortunately, we don’t have this power – but we are working on it! 🙂
Next, we have our sacramental membership in the Body of Christ – when Jesus looks upon us, and says of us, “Hoc est corpus meum.” While I am tempted to refer to this as our membership in the spiritual church – there is too much of a tendency to hear “spiritual” as ethereal and divorced from the world of bodies, trees, and bell towers. We are incorporated into Christ through very physical acts involving water, oil, bread, wine, and human touch. We join a history and a people, beyond the limits of denominational identity. It is not as if Presbyterian baptism makes you part of Christ’s left pinky, while Old Calendrist Greek baptism sends you to the tip of his nose. (You can speculate about where Indie Sacramental baptism might place you…) There is one baptism, joining each of us to the whole Christ.
Finally, we have membership in particular communities – local and broader. Despite rumors to the contrary, I belong to some defined communities – but I do not believe it is necessary to do so. I have long been intrigued by Rosamonde Miller’s church in Palo Alto: they strive to be simply a “sanctuary for travelers,” whether those travelers stay for one day or twenty years. There is no formal membership to divide people into insiders and outsiders. Likewise, the Free Communion Service in Franklin is a temporary constellation composed of whoever shows up on a given Sunday, with the work done by those who volunteer to do it. Between meetings, it dissolves again into nothingness.
Membership is an area of considerable experimentation in the independent sacramental world, and (IMHO) well worth watching, as we try out new and old ways of being the Body of Christ together. Maybe y’all have some ideas or experiences to share?