He asked me why I keep coming to Clarendon Hill, and I said, "That's a very good question that I don't have an answer to." I said I like a lot of the people, that it's habit, that it fits nicely into my schedule (recently when I was thinking about finding a new Sunday morning church, I trufax thought, "But I have to be able to do 9am Adult Ed at SCBC and have sufficient time to commute to and arrive on time at wherever I'm going next"), that when we do Adult Ed programming I like having book recommendations and people to talk about the book with, and I'm a control freak and apparently also a masochist and I keep thinking, "This could be better, and I could (help) make it better."
In conversation about the future of mainline Protestantism generally, Karl talked about how in today's consumerist society, people will just leave when they're not getting what they want from a church, rather than sticking it out like they used to do in previous eras.
I said but there are ways we can work around that -- to include people in the life of the church so that they have responsibility (so they feel an obligation to contribute to the life of the church and also so that they are empowered to work for change when something isn't meeting their needs) and also so that they feel like, "This is my family," and so they aren't going to just up and leave when something isn't working for them.
He mentioned current divorce rates &etc., and I declined to respond to that.
He said Presbyterian polity works against us in this transient, non-committal era -- you can't be involved in the church in a way that has power unless you become a member of the church.
I said, "Are we modeling Christlike behavior when we do that? -- I'm open to arguments that the answer is Yes, I just wanted to put that out there."
Karl took the point.
I said I understood wanting people to make a commitment but that I wasn't sure church membership was the most useful way of ensuring that -- you can become an official member and then leave, and you can come Sunday after Sunday and be really engaged but have a sentimental attachment to the church of your youth where you're still technically on the member rolls or have been so burned by the church earlier in life that you can't bring yourself to officially become a member somewhere or whatever.
Karl pointed out that Jesus told the disciples, "You have to come to the cross with me -- I'll give you all you need, but if you can't make that commitment..." I said, "But Jesus keeps coming back and trying again. They all ran away at the cross, and yet the risen Christ appears to them. And yes, then they do make a commitment, and many of them do go to the cross, but Jesus keeps inviting people back to the table, over and over again, and that's what we're called to do."
Near the end of our lunch, Karl said, "I wish I had more people like you."
I smiled and said, "I wish you did, too."
[Edit for clarity: So the punchline of that lunch is that I'm not going to CHPC anymore.]
At Rest and Bread this Wednesday, Laura Ruth reflected on transition, on how hard it is to know when the right time to leave is (not too soon and not too long), and I thought, "Wow, I hadn't realized just how relevant this would be to my interests," 'cause [redacted]. See also my Lent 5C sermon.
Thursday afternoon, Molly sent an email to some of the area clergy about the upcoming Easter sunrise service (and Palm Sunday procession), "I talked to Elizabeth [surname redacted] last night--she worships at a number of churches in Davis but is a guiding leader of Cambridge Welcoming. She said she, and/or a couple of other strong leaders from CWM, would be glad to participate in our joint services." [Wednesday night I had told her that our interim pastor was away in Turkey and probably wouldn't be able to be very involved in Somerville ecumenical stuff since she has a full-time pastorate in Saugus.]
And again and again I recall Laura Ruth telling me back in early March:
Why not impose your vision on something what wants your vision imposed on, eh? Why bang your head against a wall? (I'm NOT describing CHPC as a wall.) Why not find yourself in a place where your gifts and skills are timely, received, applauded? You're way too glorious to be walking around with a bloodied head, bruised fists, thwarted love. Turn around, dear Elizabeth, and see what and who's got their arms out to receive you! The possibilities are vast! If someone, something can't receive you because of their timing or capacity, or illness, bless them, pray for them, then shake the dust off your shoes, eh? You might be the one waiting with open arms for yourself.And speaking of what kind of ministry I'm called to... yesterday morning I read:
What's more, I see the essence of ministry as compassion and paying attention. I don't always get this right, but that was what I kept hearing over this time away, too: mostly the people of God need someone to share their wounds and remind them of God's loving presence by mostly just showing up.
-RJ of "when love comes to town" blog