My Two Cents
February 6, 2022, 12:00 PM

Christian Temple was strong in so many ways when our ministry together began. We welcomed women in leadership. We were leaders in the ecumenical movement. We loved eating together! And we had a strong program structure.

The pinnacle of that structure was a Program Planning Conference that would happen on a Sunday afternoon in March of every year (normally on the Sunday of the ACC basketball tournament) At that event, congregational members who had previously been divvied up to serve on functional departments (Property, Christian Education, Outreach, to name a few) would gather around tables in fellowship hall to make plans for the coming year as they finished their dessert. Those departments would then estimate how much those plans would cost and offer those estimates to the other departments. By the end of the afternoon, maybe 3 or 4 O’clock, two things had happened- a program budget was created and either Duke or North Carolina had won the tournament.

While this way of doing program was perfectly suited for those days, our congregation has since discovered the need to be a little nimbler. Some things, like blood drives and Thanksgiving dinners can be anticipated a year before they happen. But other things come along and surprise us. Add to that, our congregation’s general preference for serving on a team that has a specific task, rather than a standing committee (and our absolute refusal to spend an entire Spring afternoon at the church when other things call for our attention) and, over time things have changed a little- or maybe a lot.

A week ago I shared a Facebook post written by Lutheran pastor, Lura Groen, that spoke to this change in how we “do” church. One quote from that post continues to speak to me. After acknowledging the traditional church’s dwindling numbers and budgets, Groen makes this affirmation:

"My experience is that there are deeply marginalized people who would *love* a congregation to truly welcome them in, but we insist on doing it on our terms, not theirs. Which is further alienating.

There are also people who would LOVE a spiritual community in which to ask deep questions, learn from what is ancient, create what is new, and work together for justice."

I think two things. First, the way we used to do church was absolutely right for those times. Second, transformation is waiting for congregations ready for the adventure of doing things a new way. While there’s no magic formula for creating this new way, the closing sentence of Lura’s post hints at what it will look like for those of us who have loved the church through the years:

“We may lose the comfort of what we have known. But we will gain something so much more. Abundant life.”

Shalom,

Rick

(Tune in to next week’s column to hear the role to be played in this transformation by “congregational grandparents”)