My Politics and My Fear

I was lamenting at lunch today about the state of politics in our country and the astute person I was eating with ventured, “You know, much of our politics is based on fear.” And so, instead of focusing on what I perceive as the fears of others, I started thinking about my own fears and how they influence my perspective. So, what is it that I fear?

I guess, at my core, what I fear is unbelief. Of course, I fear this personally because I am a pastor. If I work in a denomination that historically attracts folks with above average education and our educational system tends to steer young people away from belief and faith and more to what is quantifiable (usually the only thing we use to measure truth these days) then attracting new people into church is challenging. Perhaps Presbyterians need to become comfortable anew with trying to reach the average person rather than the more highly educated person in our society because we can only enact change one person at a time. But this type of unbelief is a fear that has been with me since becoming a pastor.

There is another type of unbelief though that I dwell on more and more. I fear that people do not believe in our society. That might sound like a strong statement but many of the very things I learned growing up that we valued as Americans seem to be fading. We often say America is a melting pot culture and anyone can make it here if they work hard and try hard. But when I see the reaction in our society to immigrants (including legal immigrants) I question if we do value our diversity. From watching kids getting bullied in school to listening to adults lament in the changing ethnic makeup of the neighborhood, I don’t think people value our diversity as I always heard.

I hear people say they value our constitution, which I learned was a distinctive mark of our nation. As am armed service member, that is what my oath is to support and defend. But when people bring up the constitution, they often are either bringing up the second amendment or are citing it as a rationale why they want to opt out of some directive of the government. If people’s freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, etc are raised, I most often hear people speak against our constitution rather than for it. Just listen to the way people say the word, “Protesters” versus any other word. It is not a term of admiration in our society even though our nation was born out of a protest.

Most of all, I was taught that some of the most admirable people in our society were those who chose to work for the government. We called them public servants when I was a kid. Everyone understood that people could choose to work in the private sector, and make more money, but that some folks, for the sake of our nation/state/county/city sacrificed and worked for the common good. It wasn’t just members of the military that we viewed as public servants. We viewed people who worked for the Highway Department, the Department of Corrections, and the Forestry service in the same light. We very much viewed teachers this way. They were all sacrificing for the greater good.

Yet, today, it seems to be “normal” political dialogue to see how much we can cut government services, government programs, and government employees. We have privatized and contracted work that used to be done by government employees (often at a fraction of the cost today) and then turn around and decry government spending. And we take programs that were for the sake of the average worker, most often being compensated far below what they would in the private sector, and talk of their benefits – their pension, their health care, and even their housing as “entitlements.” It is as if we have bought into the mantra, lock stock and barrel, that if someone isn’t making a profit off of everything we do, then it has no value. Government programs are supposed to be for the good of the people, not in making a simple financial profit! Sure, we need to bring in more income to pay for what we do. But many see taxes, any taxes, as onerous despite living in a country they will turn around and call the best on planet earth. Do we really think they way to make it better and better is to cut off the programs that made our society the place that it is? Are we really so unwilling to fund what our grandparents and parents paid for with little griping?

At the core, what I fear is that if a real genuine crisis came, you could convince many people in our society to shed off our history, heritage, constitution, and rights with little thought. What I fear is it would be none too difficult to turn Americans today against one another as is being done in so many other countries around the world (making citizens of a country begin viewing their neighbor as their enemy rather than as their natural ally). I fear what has been fought for, sacrificed for, and lives given for isn’t as fundamentally valued as it should be.

In the church today, I see people willing to drop denominational affiliations over, at their core, issues that do not really effect most of us. And they are convinced to do this by people appealing to their faith! If we are willing to do it with church, would it be so difficult today to get people to think that a “true patriot” would do away with all the rights guaranteed us in the constitution?

And yet, in the end, I have to remember what Jesus said after the resurrection. His most frequent phrase was, “Fear not.” It is easy to give into fear if we truly believe no one is in charge, no one cares, and the only thing that can and will protect us in the end is our own might (financial, firepower, or even knowledge).

I am called to have faith, faith in the one who created us, redeemed us, and sustains us. I am also called to have faith that despite the fears in our society, and maybe for our society, that our better angels will prevails and we can convince most of our brothers and sisters that we truly are blessed and still live in a very special place and at a very special time. Our neighbors and allies are not our enemies. We are stronger together than we are apart.

We can build for the future. And we are called to build a better place for our children, not bunkers to hunker down in.

That’s my confession for the afternoon. I as much as anyone, maybe more than anyone, needs to make sure I am basing my politics and perspective on hope rather than on fear. Hold me accountable. If you see my fear envelope opening, call me on it. :)

Back to working on Vacation Bible School.

What do you think?

Until next time,

Tom

Biblical Innerancy

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Biblical Inerrancy
In•er•ran•cy. (noun) 1. Lack of error, infallibility. In regard to the Bible, the belief that the Bible is free from error in matters of science as well as those of faith.

A topic that is regularly raised against my denomination is that we do not believe in Biblical inerrancy. What is my answer to that? The critics are right, most of us do not. The PC(USA) affirms the Holy Bible is inspired and that it is authoritative for us. In the words of Jack Stotts, who was seminary president of Austin Presbyterian Seminary when I went through, “the Bible is the charter document for the church.” That said, most Presbyterian ministers, elders, and members understand that the Bible is a library of books, written by a wide variety of authors, compiled and edited by others, and translated by more still who lived and understood the world given the context of their times.

Let me use an example to illustrate: In Genesis 1:7-8 it says,
“7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were
under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament
and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was
evening and there was morning, a second day. (ASV)

Some newer (and older) translations refer to the firmament as a vault. Ancient peoples looked up at the sky, saw that it was blue, and assumed that there was water up there. Why didn’t the water come down? Because God put a firmament/vault up there to hold the water back. Yet, science tells us no such device exists. Is it true that God created the earth? Absolutely. Did God create the atmospheric system that sends us rain? No doubt. Does it make sense to pray for rain? I think so. But did God install a “vault/firmament” in the sky to divide waters from the ground from waters in the sky? Only if you understand that creatively, not as a literal description of a device. And I won’t even go into the fact about the vault being “heaven.”

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We could go through many items on this topic as we scan through the Bible. If you review the various lists of genealogies different names appear at times. If you track the life of Abraham, we are told that he tried to pass off his wife as just his sister (twice) and then Isaac did the exact same thing. Do we think that literally happened? We are told the story of Noah’s ark when all the species of life could not literally fit on one boat (more less be maintained by one family) or even that not all species would survive where Noah lived. We are told people lived sometimes up to nine hundred years. In the New Testament, did Jesus go to Egypt after he was born or back to Nazareth? Did Jesus cleanse the temple at the beginning of his ministry or toward the end? Which was the second temptation of Jesus in the wilderness? Who was at the foot of the cross? Who was at the empty tomb? It is easy to go on. If you try to approach the text as a literal/scientific description of events, you run across all kinds of problems. Atheists have a field day with all of this. But it is only a problem if you understand the Bible to be written really just by God and for people to really have no part in the process other than to write down dictation.

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Does this weaken the Bible? Not at all! It means God inspired people in that day and time and God can do the same in our own. If we demand biologists, anthropologists, historians, and so many other fields of learning conform to the Bible (since it is without error) aren’t we just inviting people to step away from the Bible? God gave us minds, which God expects us to use.

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Biblical innerancy also demands that the Biblical writers write things that they would never experience and out of context with their own lives. Take, for example, all of the Hebrew Bible prophecies we understand to be about Christ. I think they are about Christ. But if that is all those passages literally are about, God inspired people to write about someone they did not know, and never would know on this earth, and who would not influence anything in their lives. What if we prayed for deliverance and God answered, “I hear your prayer, and I’ll make sure I do something about it in your great-great—great—great grandson’s life.” Instead, couldn’t God answer prayers that mean something to both that person and could also mean something more to that great—great—great—great grandson?

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Most of all, it means that we are held responsible when we pick up a Bible. We are responsible to learn of the time, conditions, knowledge, and norms in their world to discern what God may be saying to us about our world today. The Bible isn’t a simple rule book to be applied in any age. God didn’t just sit back in heaven in one period of time and say, “Well, I will put it all in the Bible, so I don’t need to inspire anyone anymore.” God wants us to seek him with all of our knowledge, learning, and understanding today (fully expecting us to have studied the Bible but not just leave it at that). God did interact people largely from 2000 B.C. to 100 A.D. and blessed us with Scripture to gain understanding on what God has done and what God expects of people. God is still in the process too as new Bibles are being translated into many languages around the globe for both current and future people of faith. But God is not dormant. He didn’t give us a book and walk away. The Bible isn’t God. It is a wonderful tool to give us insight into our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. It also tells us much about the human condition. But God expects us to live in the 21st century, not millennia ago.

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This is why, in full confidence, we can say today that slavery is sinful, that women should vote (or for that matter that anyone should vote), that Christians from different churches should still work together, that God expects us to treat people who practice other religions (or no religion) equitably, and that we should take care of our planet — even though none of this is explicitly spelled out in the Bible.

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For Presbyterians there is no book that reveals God to us like the Bible. It is unique. It is authoritative. It should be studied. It should be proclaimed. It is God’s written word to us and for us. Most of all, it was written (and complied, edited, and translated) by people not automatons. They weren’t tape recorders either. They were people who took God’s inspiration and applied it in their world.

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And that is precisely what we are still called to do today. And we should go further, because we have the Bible!

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What do you think?

Until next time,

Tom

3rd Service

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Parkway is still taking the concept of New Beginnings seriously.  We recognize that it probably isn’t going to go well for our congregation in the long run if we simply try to just keep doing what we have been doing for years (no matter how well we work at doing it).  Our world is changing around us.  Society is changing.  People are changing.  So, a strong core group at the church is engaging in discussion about doing something different – really different. What if we developed a third worship service?

What would be different about this third service?  We would hold it off campus.  We would develop it with the express purpose of creating something interesting – not to us – but to others.  We would develop it for all ages.  And we would not lock ourselves into following a standard order of service.  That’s where we were when we began our first meeting last Sunday!

Here are some of the innovative ideas that were shared:

~Have something different each week.  It doesn’t have to be standard each week.  It doesn’t even have to be weekly.

~Have a pet friendly service.

~Have a service at the park like Son Rise on Easter morning.

~Have an activity based event.  Start with a devotion, run/walk/bike in the park.  Gather back to see what everyone’s come up with.

~Hold an event at the YMCA.

~Hold an event at a Coffee Shop.

~Hold an event on the North Shore.

~Have a musical event.

~Attract people to whatever we are doing with music.

~Stick with something awhile.  It needs to be tried much more than once.

~Don’t get stuck into the mindset that it needs to be long.  Give them something valuable and build on it in time.

~Hold an event on Saturdays.

~Bring food.  Bring drinks.

~Tie in community service.  Let them know how we connect our beliefs with our actions (and how they can as well).

~Don’t make this about church membership but about worship of God.

~Be clear on what we do.  Is it worship?  Is it a devotion?  Is it an invitation to social work?  Whatever it is, be clear.

As I consider the above ideas, I think we have the following challenges:

a) Are we developing a devotional/Bible Study or a worship service?

b) Having an irregular program, while it sounds good in theory, is a challenge in the church.  Last year, we tried holding a regular church meeting on Sundays for two months and on Tuesday nights on the 3rd month.  While that may seem straight forward, people were regularly confused as to when the meeting would be.

c)  We fill the room when all of the ideas are on the table.  But we only have so much energy and limited resources.  If we condense/coalesce  the ideas down to one or two main ones – will we keep the momentum?

I do think many of the ideas can work together.  Overall, I believe the worship service idea needs to be outdoors.  This keeps us outside of the box of rigidly developing a service based on the space versus on our goal and reduces the chance that new people will feel perhaps trapped in something they are not sure about yet.  The core of worship is speaking with and being in communion with God (prayer & praise) together.  Whatever we do, however we do it, has to focus on those things.

I also see many of the ideas being excellent, outside of the traditional box, but more in the realm of studies and/or devotionals.  I love the run/exercise one.  I’d be excited to try something in a new location.  But the key to making a new study or devotional work is inviting people.  I don’t think, as one participant aptly put, that if people nearby hear us just talking about something they will be inclined to join in.  But our folks may be much more comfortable asking friends/neighbors to meet them in the park or coffee shop for a devotional/run/biking/discussion event than they would be asking them to come to church.

I also really like the input of keeping it simple, not thinking anything we do has to be long, using music creatively, and bringing food/drinks.  All would work well in our culture.

What ideas do you have?  You can share ideas/suggestions with us even if you are reading this thousands of miles from New Orleans.  Or maybe you were in the meeting and ideas/thoughts have come to you since then.

Our next meeting will be July 13th following the Traditional Service.  Continue to pray on this, think about it, and I look forward to the ongoing discussion.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to go from planing to doing one or two new type activities this fall.

In Christ,

Tom

Divestment

 

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Most of the news out of Detroit last week dealt with the authoritative interpretation of the PC(USA) continuation which would allow for same sex marriages (see my previous post ‘I am a Presbyterian’ on that topic).  The other biggest news generator was reported as the PC(USA)’s ‘divestment of Israel’.  I can surely understand why this causes dismay in some parts of the church considering the general tolerance (or lack thereof) practiced by many of Israel’s neighbors toward other faith groups.  But I also understand the side of the church that wants to encourage a friend and an ally in the right direction.

My first comment is to underscore that this was a symbolic act more than anything else.  What the PC(USA) actually divested from is in some multinational corporations which the Israelis buy equipment from the Presbyterian Pension Plan (as I understand it).  The PC(USA) Pension Plan’s ownership of said corporations  is not significant.  And what is going to happen is the same thing if you or I decided to sell some stock – someone else will pick it up.  None of the corporations are under any threat financially from the action and Israel is not in any danger of losing access to said corporations’ equipment.  It therefore truly rests in the symbolic action realm. The PC(USA) did something similar back in the late 1980s to corporations selling items to the old South African government.

I will probably dismay some of my progressive brothers and sisters, but I personally would not have voted for this.  While I understand we are more likely to influence the internal policies of our friends in Israel than we are that of the internal policies of Muslim states which also practice non-equitable treatment of not just religious groups but also of genders and people of different sexual preferences – I still believe all too often we pick areas of the world to focus in on at the expense of others. There are so many places where we could take symbolic stands – not the least of which are many issues going on in our own society.  Is it really just to focus in on one state when so many states buy equipment from corporations we invest in?  Might there not have been another way to make a more over-arching justice statement?

Nevertheless, the majority of my Presbyterian brothers and sisters saw this as a justice issue in an historic land, and so they voted the way that they did and I respect that.  It is important for the church to take stands on justice issues.  I simply hope we continue to study the region and never try to make permanent statements on anything in a most fluid part of the world.

We live in a complex world.  It is incumbent on all of us in the church to learn more of other parts of the world (and not depend on sound bites from major news sources to form our opinions).  We have Christian brothers and sisters in Mosul, for example, whose church was burned down this weekend and whose lives are under currently under threat.  The “divestment” of Christians, rather than finances, from large swaths of the the Middle East is surely a justice issue topic worthy of our attention as well.  Also, when we were attacked on 9-11, we came up with some policies of questionable merit in the USA (many of which are still the law of our land).  Would we be open to changing our policies if the proverbial shoe were on the other foot?

Finally, for a denomination such as ours that has often led the way in interfaith activities, I think it is important for us to increase our contact with the Jewish community.  Nothing could be further from the truth to say Presbyterians are anti-Semitic.  We would not have our faith if it were not for the Jews and there is no faith group Presbyterians have worked closer with historically than with our Jewish sisters and brothers.  We should not equate nations with faith groups (here or overseas).  And our dialogue with Jews surely needs to be far and beyond one symbolic act.

What are your thoughts on this important international issue?  How should the church try to stand for what is right and point to the eternal in a constantly changing world?  I hope it generates some good conversations in PC(USA) congregations and hopefully increased contact with the closest synagogues as well.

Until next time,

Tom

I am a Presbyterian

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I am a minister in the PC(USA).

This week, my denomination was in the news.  The issue the media highlighted was that in states where it is legal, Presbyterian Church (USA) ministers may, if they feel so called, conduct weddings for members of the same gender seeking to be married.

What is probably lesser known among non-Presbyterians is that ministers cannot simply say, “Okay, come to our church, and I’ll marry you.” Any worship service, and a wedding is a worship service, has to be approved by a church session. So, no weddings are conducted in any Presbyterian congregation without the elected leaders of that congregation also agreeing to the service. I make this point to say that nothing we do, either nationally or locally, is the action of an individual. Rather, a community of people considers together what God is calling them to do (or not do).

My journey through the church has been winding and diverse. I have been a member of the Southern church Presbyterian and the Baptist church, I visited a smorgasbord of churches in college, and then I joined the PC(USA) . I have served in the multi-denominational (and interfaith) military chapel, and I’ve made friends with many folks from all sorts of religious traditions. I know many of them do not agree with the actions of our General Assembly this week. Fair enough.

But all I can says is, I am still Presbyterian. I am not outraged at my denomination. And, Lord willing, I will be in the Presbyterian Church (USA) when the Lord calls me home. I believe in our system of governance, in which clergy and lay people come together as equals, consider the major issues of our society and our world, and take a stand. The votes don’t always go the way I would personally vote, but I have a core conviction that God speaks to us and through us together.

Protestant churches can continue to divide and subdivide and point fingers at one another. But I truly don’t think that is what Christ calls us to do. We need to find ways to reverse this process and work together.

If the USAF chaplaincy has taught me anything, it’s that people of faith, who sometimes hold different convictions, can do great good together when they focus on their commonalities rather than on their differences.

Pray for us. We will pray for you. And I give God thanks for the place that I have been called to serve.

In Christ,

Tom

With the Homeless

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One of the great ministries of the Presbyterian Church in Greater New Orleans is the Program of Hope, offered each Wednesday morning, at First Presbyterian in New Orleans.  First, Faith, Lakeview, John Calvin, Kenner, Parkway, and St. Charles Presbyterian all support this ministry which helps the unemployed and underemployed.  Anyone who comes gets access to worship, food, toiletries, clothes, bus tokens, and (twice a month) a night at the homeless shelter.  The program has helped enough folks that some of our volunteers are former homeless folks who used to come for services.  Today, one of the coordinators for the Program of Hope asked me to go and sit with one of the gentlemen who needed help lifting a case he had with him.  So, I went and sat by him.  As in the past, without identifying anyone, I like to relate what I discovered.

Gentleman One:  In his sixties, from Galveston.  “I came here for work, but couldn’t find any employment.  I like the city, but without a job, I need to get home.  I haven’t figured out how to get back yet though.  Thank goodness for this ministry.”

Gentlemen Two:  In his fifties, also from Galveston. “I’m friends with (Gentleman One) because I found out he was from Galveston too. I just came down here because I heard businesses were hiring.  But, so far, no good.

Lady One:  In her forties.  “I love this church.  I mean, this is what the church should be like.  Everyone is equal here.  Did you hear of the tsunami that happened near China this weekend? (I hadn’t).  They have had more than a few of those.  And then there are the tornadoes.  Lots of those.  And the hurricanes around here.  I tell you, we are messing up the environment, it is making all the water warmer, and the storms are getting stronger.”

Me to Gentleman Four (Standing, instead of sitting, nearby and wearing a pancho):    Excuse me, are or were you in the military?

Gentleman Four:  Yes, how did you know?

Me:  Military folks just have a certain bearing.  I don’t know.

Gentleman Four:  I was in the Army for seven years.  I deployed.  I got out.  My mother was from old Metairie in the past, so I moved here.

Me:  What was your specialty?

Gentleman Four:  I was a chef.  I had a job at first but could only work for a week because of my kidney stones (I notice a VA hospital armband still on).  I just got out of the hospital, the VA took care of me, but now I don’t have a job.  I’m looking though.  I do construction work when I can’t find a restaurant to hire me.

Gentleman Two (looking at me):  So, how did you get stranded down here?

(No one seemed surprised by his question.  It was at this point that I realized that these four good souls didn’t know that I had come to sit with them to help Gentleman one.  They assumed I was just like them, down on my luck.  I explained that I was a pastor and a chaplain).

Gentleman Two:  So you are the pastor here?

Me:  No, Fred is (I point to him and Fred comes and starts talking with each individually, inviting them all to come to church).

Gentleman Two:  Do you carry a gun in the military?

Me:  No.  I was trained in my first career field but we are there to provide spiritual support, they figure we don’t need guns.

Gentleman Two:  Sometimes you need a gun.

Lady One:  Some folks don’t.  (Again looking at me) So, do you do exorcisms?

Me:  I do pray for folks, no matter what they suffer from.  But honestly, no one has ever asked me that before.

Lady One:  You know there used not to be much of a difference between pastors and doctors.  Pastors even did house calls.

Me:  I kind of figure I don’t have any special power, that comes from God.

Lady One:  Oh, of course, but you have special talents.  You should use them.

(At this point, the Program of Hope folks needed me to gather up extra donations to go to the Ozanam Inn, so I excused myself. Ozanam Inn is a homeless mission downtown.  We had extra shoes and sandwiches which we knew they would take.  It’s downtown and we drove down there. But we couldn’t park out front as usual due to all the parked cars, so we pulled into the side.  About thirty homeless waited outside.  I walked in).

Worker:  I am sorry sir, you will go in line, we have to take turns.

(I again had been taken to be a homeless person.  As soon as I said who I was they quickly shifted gears and got lots of folks to come help me unload my truck.  But it tells me something of the shifting homeless population demographics.  Take away my truck and my family, even though I had on Dockers and a button up shirt (with my perpetual running shoes so that I can run later today) and I blend in as one of the homeless.  Homeless folks today aren’t always unkempt, in dirty clothes, and living n a box.  They can look just like me.  And, of course, spiritually there is no difference.  Nevertheless, it makes me realize the shifting sands people find themselves on these days.  I am grateful to help and to be a part of a church that values helping everyone).

Until next time,

Tom

21st Century Christian Worship

The congregation I serve is facing a challenge these days, “How do we stock the choir with singers?”  We still have plenty of folks in worship. (We average about 85 on a given Sunday if you add both services together.) Of course, in the days before Christmas and Easter, we jump up over 100. For our size of church in this day, we are still blessed with a fair number of folks in the pews. But the choir loft is another matter. And so, the elder in charge of our services has gotten a bit creative of late. She has asked people from the congregation to come forward for the anthem. The first time, it was all the mothers for Mother’s Day, and this past Sunday it was all people related to someone in the military for Memorial Day. Without taking anything away from choirs, which I truly believe stir the heart more frequently than the pastors do, the fascinating thing to me is that on those two Sunday, instead of the group’s singing being like a bandage, it felt incredibly authentic to me.

Beyond acts of personal or family worship, our first glimpses of communal worship in the Bible come from the Exodus.

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The people built a Tabernacle to take with them. Tabernacle means “tent,” “place of dwelling,” or “sanctuary.” It is a word related to ‘tavern,’ a place to dwell. It was a sacred place where God chose to meet God’s people. It was the place where the leaders and people came together to worship and offer sacrifices. It was a mobile tent with portable furniture that the people traveled with and set up wherever they pitched camp.

“…make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8).

“Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them” (Exodus 29:45-46).

After God’s people established themselves in the Promised Land, King David first collected materials for a temple, and Solomon built it.  And, I would argue that we’ve been building “temples” ever since.  Modern Jews try to remember the tabernacle whenever they build a synagogue, but I would argue that just like the Jews do now, we tend to build permanent structures. We do not take the worship to where the people are. We build multiple public structures, all with slightly different nuances, and compete to get people in the doors. And in the past fifty years, we have seen worship participation declining across North America using this model.

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In the late 20th century and in the first years of the 21st century, the push was made in worship to make Christian worship more “contemporary”: introducing modern music (a problematic and expensive step for smaller congregations) and visual instruction (also problematic for smaller congregations). Also, the idea of putting in seating more comfortable than pews came into vogue.

Yet, if we had millions of dollars, and could refurbish every sanctuary in America and put contemporary bands on retainer for each and every one, do we really think that would cause a religious revival in our nation? Is our real problem that we don’t have enough money, the right “band,” comfortable seating, or is it something else?

What if our whole concept of traveling to a house of worship, sitting for an hour, and primarily listening to other people sing and other people talk, and where sacrifice is usually just associated with giving a financial offering – is something that the average 21st century person has trouble connecting with “the Holy” (much less the “Holy of Holies,” to borrow a little of that Tabernacle terminology)? What if people need to have an experience that is a little more interactive today? What if people need to feel that they are worshiping in the presence of God more than they need to feel that they are coming to a presentation by others?

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Friends, I am not specifically critiquing Parkway Presbyterian – far from it. I love our congregation. I find moments in our services to be powerful and our prayers heartfelt, and the mission we engage in changes lives. Our music program put on two superb programs this past Christmas and Easter, too. We have two worship services right now – one is a creative venture that focuses on prayer, communion, and the Gospel proclaimed by a lay leader. It also breaks the norm of worship services having to last an hour. (Where is that in the Bible?) We usually take about forty minutes for that one. Our traditional service taps into the rich roots of Presbyterian worship and follows an order that folks have been following since the days of the Reformation. The music is rich. The fellowship and friendships are genuine. Still, even with all of the above, I genuinely wonder if even our children will worship in these same ways in the years to come.

At Parkway, I am trying to start a dialogue on what worship might look like in the future, where we might try something new, and how we might make that happen. We live in a city where portable food trucks are not only a tradition, but they have expanded. We have public parks abounding, and we have coffee shops galore. As a local pastor pointed out, “People like getting together in our city.” How can we invite people into participatory worship that is more than getting more creative with responsive readings or setting up a PowerPoint?

If you are interested, I hope you’ll join in a dialog with us online. If I get enough responses to this post, I might create an online bulletin board or forum where we can discuss it. Or if you are local, come to Parkway this Sunday. After our traditional worship and fellowship, we are going to have a discussion on this topic and other worship topics (around noon).

God has called us to share the Good News in this time and place.  How do we think we can do this most effectively?

Until next time,

Tom

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