Beneath much of what was said at the recent Diocese of BC Clergy Conference lay an air of fear. A vague sense of unease hung at the edges of many conversations.

This pervasive low-grade anxiety was named from the assembly when the comment was made that,

We have a wave of aging population and there is a fear of managing all that while at the same time we are being told that children and youth need to be our focus. We are in that in-between place.

We are “in that in-between place.” “That in-between place” is always a place of uncertainty, often confusion, and frequently turmoil. We know what the past looked like. We used to understand how to navigate the familiar realities of the circumstances we have now left behind. We are uncertain how to find our way in the new reality we now face.

As the comment pointed out, our problem is made more acute by the fact that what was lingers on. We have not entirely finished with the 1950’s. There is enough memory of the “good old days” to fuel the illusion that if only we could do things again the way we did when our Sunday Schools were full and society at large took us seriously, then we could recapture the halcyon days of our memory.

But there is no going back. The ’50’s are over. Today I spend hours doing things my father had never even heard of before he died 30 years ago. He could never have imagined that I might sit at a keyboard communicating with parishioners through something called email. He could never have imagined that people would routinely locate a church using google. He could not have conceived of the possibility of building some sense of connection through Facebook, teaching on a blog, or  sharing on Twitter or Instagram (actually, I confess, I can’t really figure out those last two even myself). The world has shifted and the pace of change is increasing exponentially day by day.

It is no longer possible to sustain the patterns of the past and live creatively within the realities of the present.

This is frightening. It will be upsetting if I give up doing the comforting things that used to work, and for some people still feel as if they are working. But, if I fail to let go of some of the old familiar secure ways of doing church, there is little hope I will have the time, energy, or creativity to open up space for the new ways of being together in faith that are calling us forward.

I must face my fear and refuse to allow my fear to control my life and ministry.

Moving into the future may mean upsetting some of the safe, familiar patterns of the past. Opening up space for new ways of being together as church will be difficult for people who cherish memories of the way things used to be.

There is no way past this tension that does not involve pain. I need to choose either the pain of moving forward into new life or the pain of sustaining old patterns until the church of the past slowly withers and dies. It is already happening all around us.

We need to talk honestly about our fears and insecurities. We need to acknowledge the old patterns to which we cling and ask how these old ways may hinder the new life that must be born if we are to nurture faith in a new generation who did not grow up in the world of 1950.

 

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