“When you walk to the edge of all the light that you have
And take that first step into the darkness of the unknown
You must believe that one of two things will happen:
There will be something solid for you to stand upon
Or you will be taught how to fly”
Patrick Overton, Ph.D.
Why take that step? Why not just turn around and go back the way we came. Live in what was certain, comfortable and in your full control. Remember the “good old days” when churches were full?
In 1967, my seven siblings and I were seated at the dinner table one night. Our father had an announcement to make. He was offered a job as a boarding school cottage parent for boys from the Bronx who were on their last stop before juvenile detention. He would make half the money he did building tin-feeder machines in a factory. We children could not possibly know what a complex decision that was nor the consequences of living with less but something in his expression and voice radiated an excitement we never saw when he usually came home from work. We encouraged Dad to take the job. We would deal with the loss of income. He quickly became a surrogate father to a few very troubled boys who became good men. Only now do I realize what a brave step that my father took (having no college or social work experience) – a step we got to take with him.
Are you familiar with the term “discontinuous change”? It refers to a type of change that may be subtle but irreversible. Here are just a few examples of discontinuous change facing the Church:
As the Church in the 21st Century we are coming close to the edge of much of the light we think we have. What worked for religious practice in the 20th Century back when the rotary dial phone was finally a fixture in most homes no longer inspires the two youngest adult generations. If we are to take that important step of faith into future forms of living Christian faith, we will need to remember why God has us moving in the first place. Knowing “Why?” will help us to recognize a faithful “How?”
God help us to help each other to remember why You called us to be the Church for all times and in all seasons. We ask this in the precious name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
We have all learned much during the past 12 weeks:
We are tempted to address the discomfort and resistance we may feel with quick fixes and nostalgia for the way things were. We would be wiser stewards to spend time together asking how we got to this moment? What narratives drive behaviors and attitudes in the Church? Which ones are worth keeping? Which ones need to go? How do we find better narratives that will guide us where the Holy Spirit may be leading?
Over the past twelve weeks, a group of pastors and lay leaders has met on Tuesday afternoons at 3 pm by Zoom. This was originally widely promoted. We began with prayer, checked in with each other to offer mutual encouragement, and then began to examine the attitudes and assumptions that have shaped our congregations responses to what Rev. Dr. Rodney Williams calls the triple pandemic of COVID 19, racism, and poverty. Some responses have been outstanding. Sadly, some have betrayed a latent confusion between civil religion and consumer culture and what Jesus meant when he said to his first disciples (and now to each of us): “Follow me.”
All the positive narratives are rooted in the wisdom of the Bible. Loving God, loving neighbors, making and equipping new disciples, welcoming strangers, offering worship, building racial and economic equity, sharing what we have, etc.
Sharing resources, we discovered, was a narrative that many congregations are now more ready than ever to lean into. It may be a starting point for a broader discussion that includes other, better narratives.
This Tuesday at 3 pm, we will continue the conversation and stream it on Facebook so that more people will be able to participate. Our hope is that more leaders from the wide diversity of our Region will take part. (That is another, better narrative – that we more intentionally work more closely together in mutual respect when thinking theologically and acting as the Spirit leads.)
To find out how to access the Zoom meeting, click here.
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