Our season in a more traditional, liturgical congregation has been more disruptive than I imagined.
I am more aware of the impact of being in feral communities for the past 6 years, in a personal setting that is more like a recovery group than a coffee hour after worship.
In this season back to our tradition, we have worshipped for 6 weeks among strangers - I am sad to to realize I know 2 people's name other than the pastor. Liturgy - the work of the people - feels like the ritual of strangers, at times.
My reflections on these disruptions were helped a bit by two insights over the last week or so. The first was a provocative post Where Are We? by Jeffrey Jones. In the piece adapated from his book Traveling Together: A Guide for Disciple-Forming Congregations, Jones writes of the personal and congregational stirrings that he is in the middle of, summarizing with a set of questions - this one clicked with me the most:
Could it be that the church has become so much a product of the age that it has lost a clear sense of its own unique role and purpose?
My sense is that the answer to this question is increasingly YES.
Some churches have embraced the cult of man with the mic, placing a charismatic guy (it's always a guy) at the core as the soothsayer or entertainer who rivals Tony Robbins or Rush Limbaugh in his ability to engage.
Some churches have hunkered down, stripping away everything but the core. They place "what has been done around before" at the core, occasionaly painting it with varnish of new marketing or updated lingo.
Neither model seems viable as a transforming body, as a place to collapse upon G_d and another, as a mplace to be sent out from to embody the love & grace that heals.
What to do ? For me, true change happens when the core moves to the edge, an idea that John Hagel III and John Seely Brown wrote about in a business setting in this great post:
In today’s fast-moving, chaotic world, edges are beginning to take on greater meaning. Not only in their ability to help us recognize new ideas but, perhaps more importantly, in the power they give us to escape the old ones.
It seems like at our core, we yearn for church to find a "new normal", to be that one place where change and complexity are not surrounding us. Whether it means syepping off the podium or away from the chilly distance, the only direction that I can see is to the edges.