Wednesday, June 01, 2005

If I forget thee O Jerusalem

I had lunch yesterday to share woes with a couple of other micro church pastors. One of them commented that one barrier to creative thinking about renewal in these churches is their members' intense connection to THAT community in THAT spot in THAT building. The desire for growth/renewal gets all mixed up with the desire to preserve the particular congregation and their, (almost always), historic building. Instead of longing to build the body of Christ, it gets to be all about marshaling resources to save the institution and its real estate.

I agree up to a point. As my own congregation first explored options for the future, they quickly skipped over options that would mean leaving our building in favor of options that centered on staying put. So yes, their self-identity as a particular group of folks in a particular spot stymied what might have been some creative thinking about other possibilities.

But, you know, there is a deep and ancient part of our spirituality that IS about a sense of place. "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth," as the Psalmist laments. "By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion." There is something true and old about finding joy in worshipping in the spot your grandparents worshipped, about bringing your own child there to be baptized, about your heart lifting when you see the place where you have met God and God has met you year after year after year. It runs counter to modern sensibilities, to be sure. It's not efficient or pragmatic or adaptive or any of those things we need to be to get along in this culture. But I'm not quite ready to hit my people up-side the head and tell them to just GET OVER IT already. I think this is part of the human spirit we don't want to dump overboard just because it weighs us down a bit.

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