It was so uplifting Saturday to be at a regional meeting of church folk (a.k.a. a Presbytery meeting). I know! If you’ve ever been to one, then it may not seem a credible statement. But it was for me.
I’ve been doing a lot of research and reflection lately on the church, contemporary culture, and change. In many ways, it’s been my passion for the past decade. Inevitably, it leaves me wondering often about what of the church needs to die. I dream too about what might be able to grow if in fact those within the church (like me) let go of what we’ve always known. It’s scary. It calls me to dig deeper into that vow to serve with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love.
I used to care about needed changes in the church for reasons like job security, and to ease my frustration over things that drive me bonkers about the church, and to create ways that might be easier on all. The deeper I go in it, the more I see that I care because my own life is full of all sorts of people who I love immensely and who want nothing to do with communities of faith in which I have lived my whole life. Many of the folks in my life used to want to be a part; but for whatever reason, they no longer can be. Some have been burned badly, or been raised with terrible theology that still haunts them, or find themselves totally bored in worship by things that seem absolutely irrelevant to daily life. I even find active church folks who desperately want something different, something more; but don’t have the foggiest idea what that looks like or how to get there. Of course, I know there always will be people who aren’t at all interested. They never have been and they likely never will be.
My heart breaks for us all.
Just to be clear: I think it’s wise to turn away from a people who label themselves with Jesus’ name but act like the antithesis. I think it’s tragic to feel isolated or lonely or unloved or unlovable and have no community to turn t0 — especially because some expressions of church today are at their best and do offer the needed healing balm. I think it’s deplorable to be seeking — or worse yet: to already have connected deeply to the Life Force — only to be told that such things are NOT of God (which, in fact, they are! The Divine is about the journey of awe and wonder; not certainty and fact). I think it’s sense-less that the hearts of a people who claim the name Jesus aren’t breaking for the eclectic array of people Jesus went out of his way to welcome home. It’s not ok to me for people to be unaware that they are beautiful, cherished treasures. And it’s even worse to me for any to be deemed unacceptable by others who believe they know.
Recently I saw an amazing clip on The Work of the People in which Rachel Held Evans made a matter of fact statement that rocked me to the core: “Empires worry about death. Gardeners do not worry about death” (To watch the clip go to http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/creating-something-new). A few day later I watched a clip by John Philip Newell on “Dreaming Forward” (http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/dream-forward). Newell quoted the Dalai Lama regarding hope for the future. He said: “‘Of course I believe there is hope for the future. The future hasn’t happened yet.'” My mind once again blown, I went off to the Presbytery meeting Saturday where we heard from three different young adult women (interestingly all were women) who spoke passionately about the meaning they have been finding for life through their involvement in Presbyterian Campus Ministries. They have connected with others and that which is beyond, they have built relationships and learned from those much different from themselves, they have helped the hurting and shown love to those battered by life. I left that meeting so excited that these young women are the church today: the future hope in our midst. The people who passionately and honestly seek to follow the Way of Love. Ones who want to make a difference in others lives, not just seek to have their own needs met.
Maybe it’s just a handful and maybe as they get older the flame will fade.
Or maybe . . . just maybe, their lives (and the fruit of who they are) are the new growth. And maybe, just maybe, all can learn a thing or two from them as we seek to breakdown in ourselves the walls of cynicism, self-focus, and indifference.
Then . . . maybe, just maybe, our own fresh growth will unfurl under the blazing sunshine in the grand garden of this world.
Here’s hoping . . . here’s to hoping!
Peace & Love prevail,