Monday, May 24, 2010

Ministry Navigation in Uncharted Waters

As we continue in the beginning year of this second decade of the new millennium, it is becoming increasingly evident that we are beginning to embark on a journey into uncharted waters. Whether politically, socially, or even religiously, we are seeing institutions, the rationale behind such institutions, and the ability to fund them adequately, rapidly eroding in the face of a substantially more diverse and less duty-bound population. This is no less true in the church--we are rapidly losing the generations that felt it was their duty to attend church on Sunday mornings and those few newcomers that show up on Sunday mornings justifiably need a compelling reason to even stay through the service, much less come back again the next week!

As an Episcopal priest, I am by definition a representative of an institution. While I do not begrudge that fact, and appreciate the support and accountability that goes with it, it is sometimes like captaining a battleship an an era of fast patrol boats--as impressive as the hardware is, one increasingly wonders how useful and practical such institutional accouterments are. The church feels like it is increasingly in need of fast scout ships to chart out the road ahead, not massive battleships to withstand the secular onslaught.  We are launching out into uncharted waters with few, if any, markers to help us find our way.

It is clear that in the twenty-first century, churches will need to intentionally be places of formation, community, and service and they will need to be clear about what sort of Christian formation they are doing, why that is important, why it is important that it be done in community, and why service is both the thing that we attend and the work that we do afterward. This will be a tremendous challenge to both the church and to those of us who were trained under the old institutional paradigm. It will be an exciting journey, but not a comfortable one.

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