Friday, September 25, 2009

The Bridge

I went to a seminar with the esteemed moderator of our denomination last weekend. The majority of his keynote addressed the differences between the modern and post-modern generations, realizing of course that these things never fall exactly across generational lines. Then he mentioned that there are a group of us who just very well may be called to be the bridge between the two.

As someone who has a blog (admittedly underused), a facebook account and a twitter account, I get social media. To a point. I have friends both older and younger who get a lot more out of it, but still that willingness to engage on that level is a post-modern trait. However, I had to laugh at myself when I realized that the reason we had not started a church blog was because I don't have time to do it and it never even ocurred to me to have a group of other folks contribute to it. That desire/need for control and strong parameters is a modern trait. Of course, now that the idea has been floated into my head I will probably follow up on it. Eventually.... as long as I have enough control :)

My mental blog block really raised this challenge of having to bridge a great divide. This is not going to be simply throwing my robe over a mud puddle of confusion so that one side can reach the other. I'm not even sure these two sides can SEE each other, let alone respect and understand each other.

What about the woman who reprimanded my friend for wearing his hat in the fellowship hall during a dinner at the church?
What about my friends who discount the amount of mission the Presbyterian Women accomplish just because they refuse to meet at night?
What about the people who moved their membership because a female Head of Staff was just too far out of the box?
What about the parents who rip the church and say there is no place for them, and then get mad when we are hesitant to baptize their child because we know we will never see them again to love and nurture that child?
What about the retiree-aged pastor who clings onto the pulpit because it defines him/her blocking out the next generation from having a place?
What about that next generation that frustrated about not having a pulpit blindly swipe at those that are in their way with no compassion about why these folks are finding it so hard to let go?

So often it seems like we need less of a bridge, and more of a space shuttle.

I wonder if part of finding a better place is admitting that a particular worship space cannot be all things to all people. This goes for the institution and the seeker. For instance, I currently serve a mainline denomination with a strong traditional worship service. We at times introduce things that would lean us towards 'blended' but we are traditional. And we are good at it.

Before my arrival this congregation delved into the contemporary worship scene with disastrous results. There are still people no longer attending and feelings very hurt. These things take the musicians with the commitment and talent to do it well and every week. It also needs the support of at least one person on staff. Right now we have the latter, not so much the former. BUT there are at least two other congregations in our immediate area who do WONDERFUL contemporary worship. So why not worship there? And why not have it be okay with our institution to say, "Go, with our blessing." It's the same God - or so we say - so what does it matter?

Again, this simplifies the many issues that we are facing as the church and actually I think the generation after me may very well have a better chance of briding the gap (blending the worship?) than I will.

Still, I appreciated the challenge for me to be the bridge even if I can't see the other side.


Cheesehead said...

This is very, very much on my mind, as I seek where to serve next. (I can say that here, right?)

I was recently invited to lead a workshop next year on "emergenty-type things", and when I told my session about it, they were flabbergasted. "We didn't know you knew anything about that stuff." they replied. (Despite my frequent quotations of the Hipster Cool Kids in the pulpit.)

I think everybody at the table had a wake-up call that night, most of all me.

Very good and wise stuff here.

Jennifer said...

Amen to all of these musings of yours.

Songbird said...

I appreciated reading this the other day, even though I couldn't comment from the mountaintop. It's such a tricky moment, isn't it?

Ruth Whitehead said...

Really relate to what you say: we have recently started a 'creative church service' for people who want to meet God and encounter God's word but not necessarily through formal liturgy - but there is a disgruntled group who DON'T like it (even though some of them have never been!) ... and we haven't yet had too many new people opting in. At what point do I admit we would need to be even more radical to appeal to the unchurched...or give up and retreat into the certain?? I just keep praying!

revkjarla said...

It is an interesting and exciting place to be..if we can convince ourselves and our congregations to have the courage and faith to dare to imagine while embracing one another, and what is rich.

Sally said...

Great thinking here, highlighting many of the frustration areas encountered by ministers today.... bring on the space shuttle, and fill it with grace!

mid-life rookie said...

I've been reading The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle and asking many of the same questions you are. Glad I'm not alone. Still don't have answers. Hope all is well with you. Haven't dropped by here in a while and miss reading your thoughts.