I’ve been in a real soul battling wrestling match lately. My brain has been in overdrive, and at times I’ve been stressing over it. Nothing I can’t handle, but I do acknowledge there has been some stress involved. At times, it keeps me awake at night as I wonder and pray it through.
You see I’m trying to figure something out. I’m wondering if it’s possible… And most of the time I’m not sure it is… At least as things are today… I think.
Then this morning I read this post called “I Hate Church” and it’s hit on a number of issues I’m struggling with. Which prompted me to write this post.
The United Church in my area has vacated three buildings in the last year due to the inability to pay the bills. Two of which hold a couple of the oldest casavant organs in the city. One has sold to a developer wishing to use it for the arts community, the other two are still for sale.
Over the next 24 months, I expect we will close at least 3 more churches for the same reason.
I get that… if you can’t pay the bills, why keep going? Why burn yourselves out?
Then I walk the streets of my town. Then I read the news. Then I talk with school principals and teachers. Then I see the vandalism.
All I see and hear is brokenness. Families. Community. Relationships. Lives. Homes. Children. Parents. Teens. Schools.
Then I look around to see who is helping these people? The government? No. Community? No. Churches? Nope.
This is what bothers me most. I’d almost be willing to go so far as to say I hate it. And I don’t really like to use that word.
I was at an ecumenical gathering last week when the host clergy told me they had children in their church one evening when one child, new to the group, said he was scared to be in the sanctuary. The look of the organ scared him, it looked like a monster.
Fair enough, organs are big intimidating instruments. But it’s also a sign, for me, that our buildings are intimidating to new-comers. It’s a foreign land for many people. And as indicated in the article I linked above, it’s not always the most welcoming place for people who are “different” than the majority of the people who show up on a Sunday morning.
My denomination, much like many of it’s local churches, is walking a fine-line between closing and “getting by”. It’s on the brink of a financial cliff (in fact it’s probably over the side, clinging to a little branch in the mud) and it doesn’t know the future… again, like many of our local churches.
So do we remember that Jesus called us to baptize the nations, to heal the sick, walk with the broken, or do we just fight to keep the status quo for just a little bit longer? Until that last funeral. Until that last Christmas Eve service. Until that last dime is sent to the oil company.
A good friend reminded me of this quote, “Churches aren’t country clubs for saints, but rather hospitals for sinners.”
That same friend shared this, “When I stood up at Presbytery and said that something was wrong with the church, and that we should look at different ways of doing things, I was told by a minister in the court that he liked it just fine, and if I didn’t, I could leave.” So he did, at least that meeting. Thankfully he’s still with us in the church.
This is an example of the reaction many of us are facing when we try to move the church back to its origin, whether directly said as above, or through the (in)actions of these meetings. It’s the reason the church was called into existence: to help people. To help them encounter the risen Christ. To help them heal. To help them grow. To help them feel loved by something/someone far greater than we can imagine.
When did we lose this vision, this opportunity? Somewhere we lost our way. Somewhere we forgot who we are here for.
Is it for you? Is it for me?
Or are we here for someone else?