Gathered and Scattered: The Life and Death of an Innovative Urban Church (working title) details how an unusual model of church unfolded over the full course of its life, in this case 51 years. When the Community of Christ, an ecumenical congregation in Washington, D.C., ceased worshiping together in 2016, members transferred the building in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood to a partner in mission, La Clínica del Pueblo. Above the front door, the sign still says La Casa, a name that has endured from its time as a restaurant through its four decades as a worship and public gathering space, now to a Health and Action Center.
Intentionally planted in the inner city in 1965—a time when many churches were leaving—the Community of Christ attracted people disillusioned with religion. The Community of Christ “distinguished itself from the more-organized church without rejecting it,” one former member says. Members forged a close-knit community, with Catholics and Protestants, evangelicals and Episcopalians, Mennonites and Methodists joining their lives and receiving Communion each week around the same table. From its start, the Community of Christ strove to live out the principle that contemplation and social action do not to be divided. It was also primarily led from the pews—or rather, folding chairs—with ordained pastors and priests playing a guiding role.