Thirty-eight years ago today I was ordained a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada.

All these years later, I am still at it, still the Rector of an Anglican parish on the West Coast of Canada. I keep going hoping one day I might figure out how it all works.

The problem is, the landscape keeps shifting. The world into which I was ordained nearly four decades ago is not the world in which I seek to serve God in the church today. The world has changed almost beyond recognition. I fear, as a leader, I have not kept up with the realities of the new world in which I seek to do this religion business.

Back in the old days when I started out, Sunday morning was still relatively sacred time. Certainly, even then the majority of people did not observe the Sabbath by making their way to a house of worship for an hour of devotional practice on Sunday morning. But Sunday was a quieter gentler day than the other days of the week. No one had to get up and rush out to do the weekly grocery shopping because it was the only day left after a week packed with activity. The grocery store probably was not even open.

“The Lord’s Day Act” which had made Sunday store opening illegal in Canada, was only struck down in 1985. I had been serving as a priest for four years by then. Today, Sunday is one of the most popular days for people to exhaust their credit cards.

When I started out in the priesthood, team sports were seldom scheduled on a Sunday morning. Guides, Brownies, Scouts and Cubs would not have dreamed of competing with the sacred hour of church. Today, every activity imaginable claims space on Sunday. Even people who genuinely long to occupy a pew Sunday morning feel pressure to engage in activities other than corporate worship on “the Lord’s Day.” And, when Sunday morning is the only possible opportunity all week to sleep in a little longer, it is no wonder church feels like an obstacle too high to climb.

Perhaps even more striking, when I started out in this religion business, we were pretty much the only show in town when it came to nurturing spiritual life. Certainly, in small town Manitoba, there were no ashrams nearby, no temples, no yoga studios, meditation workshops, sacred dance classes, or crystal healing sessions to cater to the spiritual seeker, not to mention no podcasts, Youtube videos, online spiritual directors, or chat rooms to support pilgrims on the way. Today the market is glutted with spiritual options to cater to every imaginable taste in connecting with the Divine.

Closely connected to the flooded spiritual market place is the death of hierarchy. My priesthood began in the tail winds of “Father Knows Best.” The TV series ended in 1960; but we grew up with the re-runs and, to our shame, my generation tried not to notice that it was over. We may have talked equality, cooperation, letting go of power, and servant leadership. But if you scratched the surface, you would discover we were clinging to the power, privilege, and prestige of position as much as those who more overtly lorded it over people in the past.

We tended to tell before deeply listening. We wanted to be the religious experts holding all the power and serving as the gatekeepers to the kingdom and dispensing wisdom from a position six feet above contradiction. Somehow we failed to notice that nobody really cared any more about our expert religious opinions and pronouncements. The prestige of our position was gone and whatever power we might still be able to wield, was exercised in a smaller and smaller circle of influence. But we tried to turn back the clocks and operate as if the world still took an interest.

As my generation slowly shuffles off the main stage of church leadership, we leave in our wake the wreckage of our failure to see that the exercise of power in the interests of perpetuating institutional life have created rigid structures that cannot adapt to changing realities. The use of guilt, manipulation and pressure to get the job done, are no longer tools of the trade that work in an egalitarian culture, where “experts” are always open to question and challenge. Cooperation, grace, freedom, openness, and flexibility have always been the ways of Jesus’ leadership. They remain our only hope of ministering meaningfully in our radically altered culture.

The failure of my generation to take to heart the death of hierarchy and to take seriously just how irrelevant we have become in the world, has led to an ocean of disillusionment with church. It is no wonder people who have never been trained in reverence for the power structures that work for those at the top have walked away from our little ego-project of church.