After more than a year of being called Oakland Startup Church, we are changing our name to Oakland Communion! We collectively discussed, brainstormed, prayed about, and surveyed a variety of names, and this is the one we felt drawn to the most for our community. Why?
First, this name holds several tensions very well.
New and yet very Old - Like our community, Oakland Communion feels fresh to us. And yet, it is very ancient. It roots us in a tradition that is 2000 years old on its own, and is itself rooted in the Passover meal, which is another 5000 years older. As a church, we live in vital connection to our ancestors but in a completely original place and time: Oakland, 2017.
Concrete Practice and yet Mystical Connection - As humans we are a vibrant unity of body and soul, and we need embodied practices that give us a connection to our Creator. Communion is a very tangible, tactile tradition of bread and wine, eating and drinking, that we practice every Sunday, and yet it is also deeply mysterious in that we believe God is present in a special way in the meal. We are, says Jesus himself, eating and drinking him. We are taking his spirit into our very bodies. And in being an embodied spiritual practice, communion reminds us that we also exist for both the spiritual and physical flourishing of our neighbors.
Christian and yet Approachable - We are a Christian church, and we have no desire to bait-and-switch our neighbors by implying something different. So having the name of a distinctively Christian practice, instituted by Christ himself, made sense to us. However, sadly the words "Christian" and "church" have come to mean, for many people and for good reason, "closed", "unapproachable", and "uninterested in/uncaring for me as I am." This absolutely breaks my heart because this is exactly the opposite of how Jesus was with people on the margins. One neighbor in the survey we conducted said, “Oakland Communion seems to be very inclusive as a name for the many characters of Oakland.” Indeed we are and hope to continue in this way as we grow. Our unity is not created from uniformity, and our communion is not comprised of a bunch of people that have already spiritually "arrived". We are all on the Way.
Secondly...it’s the whole point. Creating space for our neighbors and friends to come into communion with God, and, in so doing, truly communing with each other as family across any lines that the world says ought to divide us….this is the purpose for our existence as a church. In that way, Oakland Communion will be a constant reminder to us of who we are.
Finally, this name gives us a spiritual model for life as a church. At the very first communion, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples. I’ll say more about this in the first few weeks at our new location during our Lenten series, but for now suffice it to say that it is part of our journey as a family to understand ourselves in that bread. We are taken by Jesus, blessed, broken and given to the world so that others might find communion with God and with each other. Our name will be not just a reminder of who we are but a model for who we want to be.
If you are looking for communion with God and others in Oakland, we welcome you.