We're in the middle of our annual two day "vestry/staff conference" here in Pasadena -- the yearly opportunity for the All Saints Church staff, vestry and vestry-elect to gather for orientation, reflection and inspiration. We look at last year's goals and how we've done in terms of accomplishing them. We look at the challenges and opportunities ahead and set new goals to meet and maximize them. We worship, pray and fellowship.
This year our theme is All Saints Church 2020 ... creatively imagining what we can do in 2010 to put systems, programs and ministries together to equip the mission ten years down the road. We had a fabulous guest speaker yesterday -- a "futurist" who helped us look through a whole variety of lenses ... facinating stuff.
The conversation continues today as we will get to work applying some of what we've learned to the "next steps" we need to take.
So why am I sitting here blogging instead of being part of that exciting and important work? Because as I went to get in my car this morning, my neighbor waved me over and pointed out that water appeared to be streaming out of my bathroom wall and down his driveway.
So we're now on "PLAN B" for Saturday, March 6. And what that looks like is me sitting here with the two dogs and the water shut off to the house waiting for the plumber to show up. Oh well.
In the meantime, my email this morning included a link to this article by Walter Russell Mead -- a hard hitting reflection on the challenges facing "the church" which really could not fit more perfectly with the conversations we had yesterday at the All Saints vestry/staff conference and my colleagues are having this morning without me.
So check it out. See what you think. Does the "holy crap" need to go? And if it does, who decides what's holy and what's holy crap? And if it doesn't, how does the church live out its mission in spite of the challenges it faces in the months and years and decades ahead? Think about it while we wait for the plumber to show up!
The Holy Crap Must Go -- Walter Russell Mead
Almost 500 years ago, Martin Luther posted his famous 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. There’s no doubt that a lot of serious prayers were prayed and good sermons preached in the Castle Church where Luther posted his theses. But over the years a lot of holy crap had collected there: by 1518 there were more than 17,000 ‘holy relics’ in the church, including such treasures as the body of one of the babies Herod had killed in Bethlehem, straw from Jesus’ manger, a piece of Moses’ burning bush, a sample of the milk of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a set of the swaddling clothes she used on the Christ child. If you visited each relic and prayed the appropriate prayers, you could knock more than 125,000 years off whatever time you were expecting in Purgatory.
Martin Luther understood something very important about the Castle Church: the holy crap had to go. There might have been a time when a vial of the Virgin’s milk would connect the peasants with the story of the first Christmas and remind them both of the dignity of women and the awesome presence of God on earth. The brutal knights of an earlier day might be terrified into honoring their oaths if sworn on one of the 35 pieces of the True Cross lying in various reliquaries and altarpieces at the Castle Church. But that time was no more; if Castle Church was to play its part in the great changes on foot in the world, old ideas would have to go, and once-treasured relics be accepted as frauds and cast aside.
That’s a pretty good description of where the American church is today: there’s a lot of holy crap on the premises, and it is long past time for a good housecleaning. The American church is staggering under the burden of a physical plant that it doesn’t use and can’t pay for; it staggers under the burden of dysfunctional and bloated denominational and professional structures that it can no longer carry; and it is crippled by outdated ideas about what it needs to do its job. All these buildings, bureaucracies and assumptions may have been holy once, may have played a real part in advancing God’s work, but for a lot of them that time has passed.
Read the rest here