What is a church anyway? (part II)
Do you remember the days when kids ran around the church campus on Sunday morning? How about when the sanctuary was so full that a second service had to be started? Or when the choir lined up along the side of the chancel, bright and colorful in their robes? Such memories can be bittersweet—bright images tinged with a little sadness. Memories of St. Andrew’s past are not just about the church, they are about your life—-the once busy household that has quieted down, the hard fought battles that are now in the past, the precious moments spent with people who are no longer with us. If you relate to this even a little, then coming to church on Sunday and seeing the empty pews and the spare calendar might bring feelings of grief, even as you feel gratitude for who and what the church is today.
It is important to regard the past with tenderness. The stories of our lives are priceless and rich in meaning. When someone new comes along and begins to talk of the future, pushing to “rethink” how we do things, it can seem a little jarring at first. Without an appropriate regard for what St. Andrew’s has been, one cannot envision where it might be going with any accuracy. We must appreciate the DNA of an organization to really grasp what its purpose and true potential is.
But organizations do change—just as neighborhoods change and families change and people change. The process of moving from what we once were toward what we will become is a much longer arc than we may wish (or fear) it will be. The mainline denominational church in the United States has been changing for decades now. In that time, churches have been experimenting with all kinds of projects to “revitalize” themselves—-canvassing neighborhoods, congregational surveys, mission initiatives. Revitalization is an industry, with consultants and certificates and even PhD programs. Yet, the numbers still decline, which suggests that we haven’t quite figured it out yet.
And yet, I sense that we at St. Andrew’s are called to explore the question. What are we to become in the future? What will St. Andrew’s look like in the year 2035? The Session has approved a group of people put forward by the nominating committee to devote the due time and attention to noting what St. Andrew’s has been, what it is now, and what it may be in the future. 2035 is a mere 13 years away and yet they will be critical years for the church. I would like to meet this future thoughtfully, intentionally, with as much forethought and agency as God will grant us. It is a worthy endeavor undertaken on behalf of those who planted the seeds of this church and those who will reap harvest yet to come.
This Sunday at the Congregational Meeting I will introduce the 2035 Team and give more detail about what its task will be. I hope to see you then (in person or on Zoom).