Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This Just Isn't Working

"This Just Isn't Working" is the title of an article by LeeAnne Watkins in the June 13, 2012 issue of the Christian Century.   http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2012-05/just-isn-t-working

LeeAnne, the rector of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, speaks the truth when she questions the many new things and new approaches she has used to bring people into the fold of the church.  But they are not coming.  For many reasons, time being high on the list.  And then she echoes advice a mentor once gave her: stop doing things that aren’t working.  She writes: "This makes all the sense in the world, but it’s hard to do. It is hard to give up the picture I have in my head about what a church is supposed to look like: people sitting around on couches in the parish hall, Bibles open."

I believe LeeAnne is right. After eight years as dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, I too question the ability of an ordained leader or an energized lay leadership team to get us to a place where people will once flock to our doors like they once did. Times have changed.  The world is different. Our task is to see where God is moving and working and then point God's people in that direction: the risk remains that it may not be to our worship services or education offerings they will choose.  God has not changed -- the world around us has.

LeeAnne quotes Kwok Pui Lan writes in the Fall 2011 issue of Reflections, when she says that "we still have a cathedral mind-set, while the world has a bazaar mind-set. The cathedral mind 'takes patience, learning, concentration, and years of training.' The bazaar mind is

a marketplace where you shop from place to place. You have no obligation to stay long and no commitment to buy. . . . It’s not just the volume of information we face but the way it affects brain function—the clicking from page to page, the new habit of linking information so quickly.

As our community celebrates 250 years as a congregation and 93 years as a cathedral, the challenge to adapt our cathedral mind-set is not an easy one.  It has defined us and shaped our work for generations.  But is it working? What might a cathedral become in a 21st bazaar-like century? 

We have work to do.  May God show us a future filled with hope.