It takes a "village": Urban churches built from the basement up

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Today's Chicago Tribune has a lengthy story on a new type of church springing up in cities, this one called the Urban Village Church, an initiative ol the United Methodist Church, but a far cry from the building-based congregational model of most Catholic and mainline parishes in the U.S.

Urban Village's three Chicago meeting spaces draw between 200 and 300 folks on a Sunday--not a bad number for small congregations of this type--and offer other meetings for prayer and study during the week.

Inclusivness and hospitality--which in the practical realm means welcoming people of all ages and especially sexual orientations, as well as a blend of liturgical styles--are the keynotes of this approach to church. The co-pastors don't vest for services--a nod to the suspicion many younger folks have toward hierarchical church institutions--and seem decidedly open to the "spiritual but not religious" set.

I see Urban Village's success as a sign of some real spiritual hunger, but I wonder if Catholic dioceses and parishes would willing to take the chance on funding some alternative models of "church," especially given the that the under-40 demographic is basically open to gay and lesbian people and they hate--and every study shows this--church involvement in politics. With the U.S. bishops doubling down on both the gay issue and their robust intervention in the political debate in this election year, I'm not sure a "Catholic" attempt at something like Urban Village would get much traction.