The reason we go to church is to participate in the sacramental life. This is essential in the life of the Christian.
This is a topic that seems to be frequently discussed among protestant denominations, but not really openly talked about among Catholic and Orthodox groups. This is because only the Catholic and Orthodox streams really emphasize that the sacraments are really literally real and actually transforming you. They are not an analogy. The communion is actually the body and blood of Christ.
If a religious group insists that this is only some type of analogy, or a symbol, and does not actually transform you or divinize you in any way, then they will have to come up with materialistic reasons to justify the presence of the church. Some of these reasons are very true and virtuous, such as charity work and education and a community space for us to gather and make friends and build families. However it is participation in the sacramental life together with others that underlies all of these other factors.
If there is a church with a “pastor” who distributes the “lord’s supper” at a “service” as a metaphor to reinforce our faith in the gospels, that is dramatically different than receiving eucharist from a priest at a mass so that you can literally transform and directly experience God.
The sacramental life is essential. Jesus said in John 6 that you need to drink his blood and eat his flesh in order to have eternal life. Jesus did not say that it is a metaphor. Later, at the last supper, Jesus emphasized again in his words “this is my body”.
Remember the white moon “Lua Branca” of Irineu’s first hymn as a reference to the full moon of Passover which is at the last supper. Thus the commencement of Irineu’s hinário is also the commencement of the new sacramental life for us to experience mirroring that of the last supper.
While some traditional Daime groups insist on not calling their centers “churches”, these centers still distribute valid sacraments to their members and guests. This is the best case to be made of arguing that it is valid to call Daime centers churches. Not just because this is what they are called in the line of Padrinho Sebastião, but because we understand the nature of the church to be the place where we come together and fulfill our requirement of participation in the sacramental life.
As Santo Daime has spread to countries that are not predominantly Catholic, it is observed that many people attempt to play down the Christian aspect of the tradition and further play up the spiritism and shamanic aspects. This is likely due to many having the religious trauma of associating Christianity with preachers and bible and people pressuring you to believe certain things else you be damned. USA and Canada especially are predominantly protestant and Catholics are a minority. These people have very different perspective than the innate knowledge that someone who remembers how easy and non-dramatic it was to just show up to a church and consume the sacraments without ever giving faith confessions or going to a bible camp. People shy away from Christ because they grew up around the cultural air of evangelical influenced Jesus worship, which is of a completely different theological stream from Catholic sacramental theology.
These people may be more inclined to be excited about the idea of portraying Santo Daime as being some type of ayahuasca church or shamanic church. However, the deepest realizations lie in the fact that through participating in the sacraments they are members of a truly Christian church.