In the midst of my working, I have visited the internet numerous times today and always seem to end up staring at my blog. There was just this little voice or feeling or something subtly urging me to write something. But, for the life of me, I could not think of anything to write. My cup- which almost always runneth over with things to tell you about and various occurrences about which to over react, problems to blow out of proportion or memories to share and exaggerate- is sadly empty today. Is there somewhere to get a free refill?
One thing that happened today was the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Church Council. That would be: president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, Supervising, myself, and our parish administrator. Not a whole lot was discussed of much importance, but one thing was definitely brought to my attention: People on a local level are often blissfully unaware about what is occurring in their church on a national level.
Point in case: One of the items that Supervising discussed was the synod assembly where the recommendations from the Task Force on Human Sexuality were discussed, and a poll was taken. I wrote about it here
Supervising began talking about it, and it was as if a lot of these people - leaders in our church - had no idea what he was talking about. They asked questions as if it was the first time they'd heard that these issues and recommendations are going before the churchwide assembly this August.
And it's not like they have not had opportunities to learn about these things. When I first began they were having a well publicized Bible study with the intention of educating members about the issues, and giving them an opportunity to then give feedback to the task force to help shape the recommendations. Only a handful of people showed up, and only one of those was a church council member. Then, in December (or January? I wrote about it, and could go check, but I don't especially want to right now) they had the opportunity on a synod-level to meet and discuss the recommendations after they had been released to the congregations. How many people ended up going? I think Supervising and myself (well, and another member, but she was on the Task Force so she was expected to be there, anyway).
I guess this is to be expected. The church has begun to increasingly focus inward. Finances are tough, and there is some debt. Membership isn't what it used to be, and hasn't shown signs of growth for some time. Worried about making ends meet they are beginning to become a church that focuses on maintenance, and not mission. They've decided to cut their support to the Synod, not because they don't support the ministry of the larger church, but because that is the easiest expense to cut which will effect us the least. Each month the council votes whether or not they will send the payment to the synod, based on whether or not they feel there is adequate funds available.
So, I guess it should be no surprise why a lot of people don't know what is going on in the larger church. They're too busy navel gazing to look up and realize that church is much more than what goes on here. Sure, worship is important and it is the heartbeat of a church, but the church is also about doing the work of God outside these walls. It's about being a vibrant body who is living and breathing and moving and reaching out. I don't know about you, but if I had to choose between being friends with two people, one of which just sat there like a bump on a log, unwilling to reach out and interact with people around him, and was too busy focusing on what was going on inside him, and the other was vibrant and outgoing, constantly moving and talking and sharing and helping others, I think it's pretty obvious what choice I'd make. I think a lot of people would make a similar choice. And choosing a church isn't much different.
Of course, then comes the question: As the pastor intern, how do you draw the people outside of themselves? How do you help them to see that they shouldn't focus so much on staying alive, but if they focus on moving outward and welcoming and helping others, that the whole staying alive thing will take care of itself?
I've tried in my sermons to say: We are claimed and loved and chosen by God. We are to share this news with others. We are to radically welcome EVERYONE into our midst, with kindess and open arms. Every sermon I try to end with bringing it back to the congregation, telling them what this means for us, and how we should respond. People come up and smile. They say, "Good sermon. I especially like the part where you said we should [do this]." How many of them follow through? That's a good question. But I figure that if I keep preaching, and keep trying to practice what I preach, that they will hear my words and see my example and perhaps that will spark a little movement in the right direction. And if, in my year here at this congregation, I am able to even encourage a little movement, then I believe my time will have been well spent.
So, for not having any idea of what I was going to say, I sure did take up a lot of room...