Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Church: Refuge from change?

Here is an old joke:

Question: How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: Change?

Yesterday I mentioned the work of Diana Butler Bass and her observations about how churches must change to meet the challenges of the 21st century. I'd like to continue that conversation with an excerpt from her book, Christianity for the Rest of Us (p. 24). I hope you find this thought-provoking, even provocative:
"I have often heard people remark that churches do not like change, that they provide refuge from change, or that they resist change. Some Christians today fear cultural change, opting instead to make pronouncements about a God who is 'the same yesterday, today, forever' and insisting that they alone know the way to and the mind of God. Christianity, they say, is not about change. Christianity is old-time religion. They build churches to protect people from change, often in anonymous, suburban, gated spiritual communities, where they recreate a vision of some cherished Christian past. They venture out into the world to try and force the rest of us back to the perfect world of their fathers.
I cannot figure this out. In the New Testament, Jesus asks everyone to change. With the exception of children, Jesus insists that every person he meets do something and change. The whole message of the Christian scripture is based on the idea of metanoia, the change of heart that happens when we meet God face-to-face. Even a cursory knowledge of history reveals that Christianity is a religion about change."
This weekend we will mark our 100th birthday as a parish. In the days and weeks ahead, I want to invite you into a conversation about the challenges of the next 100 years, and how we must consider change in our parish and in the Episcopal Church. This conversation, of course, is already under way, and has been for some time.

The "listening" meetings that Bishop Shannon Johnston is sponsoring (see below) is part of a wider conversation about change; it is a conversation about much more than a single issue (same-gender blessings) but about how God is calling us to shape the church for the next generation and the generations after that.

We must also be in this conversation about change at St. Paul's. The conversation will comein many forums, formal and informal. I have a few ideas about how we can have this conversation, and I will say more about that in coming days and weeks. And I invite your comments on this blog.

1 comment:

Janice Dean said...

I find myself struggling between wanting the church to change a lot and quickly in some ways, but missing "the way things used to be" in other ways. Regardless, I heartily support an authentic dialogue about change in our church and the wider church, and I hope that we can learn from each other to then actually *move forward* on some changes that really need to happen. Hopefully we can figure out as a community what those changes need to be! You have my full support in this, Jim, and you also know that I won't be afraid to speak my mind if I disagree on something. :-)