I just returned from a two day gathering of clergy of the PNW Conf of the UMC (if you're not Methodist and don't get all the initials, it's not important to the post's content). Bishop Sally Dyck from Minnesota brought us the message for our gathering. One of the many things that she challenged us to do is to explore our role as leaders inside of a church system that can be (and often is) depressed. For such a, well, depressing topic this was a fantastic and fun gathering. I haven't laughed that much with colleagues in a very long time. We prayed, sang, and played.
I'm left thinking about the ways our denomination is depressed and how that illness is played out in my local congregation. But more than that, I am pondering how we might acknowledge this reality in such a way that it liberates us. By naming and facing the feelings and fears that ensnare the church, perhaps we could liberate it and set it off on a course yet to be dreamt.
I believe the world needs the church - as deeply imperfect as it is. There is a power to be experienced in gathering together. There is a joy that can be experienced in covenant community and through the gospel message. This joy, unlike so many other happy things, doesn't arise out of met desires or the comfort of ego. This is a joy that comes from the Source of Life, and it compels us into hard places to difficult work in the world.
I wonder how our church can get to this life of joy. Until we find it, though, new people aren't going to make us their home and our ability to be an agent of transformation will remain quite truncated. United Methodism, the perfect child of Modernity, might need to step away from our preoccupation with effectiveness. Effectiveness is not only boring, but it can be depressing. Maybe we need to latch on to some of the values and practices of the mystics of our faith. Perhaps we could begin lifting up faithfulness over effectiveness, fruitfulness over productivity, community over individualism.
This isn't a coherent post, but this gathering has brought me home full of thoughts and prayers for a church which I love and which I find wonderfully flawed and imperfectly graceful.
How might we better experience and express joy in the church?
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