Thursday, October 18, 2007

Left Behind ...

I've been rather chirpy on this blog lately. Moonflowers, spiders, Niagara Falls -- all part of my life, and all worth a mention. Home life, in general, is good right now, thanks be to God.

Church life, however, is not so hot right now.

The Church on the Pike has embraced the "purpose driven" principles set forth by Rick Warren, of Saddleback Church, in California. This is a "megachurch," with many thousands of members and programs galore. I've read the books; I was part of the Vestry that developed a vision statement for our church, incorporating purpose driven principles. I approve.

That is, I approve in principle. Approving in practice, even for a person who has spent many years in management and an equal number of years catching "fast balls" thrown by children, can be difficult. I try, but I'm creaky. I'm used to change, but it's hard to let go of the parish model that I was so comfortable with.

And some people have started to balk. Some people are leaving. There's no need to go into detail here. But three people I dearly love have just left. Others are thinking about leaving. New people are coming in the door, and that's good. They will be very happy in this church. But I can't escape the idea that we are also diminished by our losses. There is no one who is not important. It hurts not to see those who have left. This is a grieving process for me.

And of course, there's the unacknowledged subtext to this problem, one I haven't wanted to think too much about. If the Church on the Pike once again becomes the flagship parish of our diocese, as it was back in the middle of the last century, with a thousand people attending services every weekend, will it still feel like home? I am not so much a flagship type of person.

A tugboat. That's more like me.


Anonymous said...

I struggle immensely with my desire for church to be current and meaningful and for it to hold on to the most important parts of its past. Where's the balance? Who knows. How to keep everyone in the fold? How to be pastoral to those who don't fit the mold? I don't know.

One of my problems with this particular approach (meaning the megachurch thing) is that I am a "living into the questions" kind of person. Some of it is my generation (we post moderns don't go for that whole "wrap it up in a package with all the answers" sort of thing) and some of it is my personality.

Another thing to ponder - tradition is the wave of the future. The coming church (called emergent church) is more often than not about tradition, contemplation, incense and icons, and an eclectic spirituality gleaned from the best of the past combinded with the new. Think podcasts about lectio divina, compline by candlelight with evocative images shown on a large screen. It is not about the "mallification" of Christianity or the branding of Jesus Christ (TM). This is what I see at many megachurches, and it really doesn't work for a lot of people.

Wayne Stratz said...

May you find peace in this time of change. In the last ten years I have left a church and watched people leave my church. both are painful.