It’s been a while since I’ve been here, posting my thoughts….
Lately I’ve been wrestling with “place.” For many years, I’ve watched the church hold on to “place” in the form of building. I’ve seen many churches hold on to “place” in the form of traditions. And yet, others define place as family, neighborhood, community.
At this point in my life I truly recognize the need for the church to be rooted in community. Not just because that is where they are located, but to really KNOW their neighbors. My church is located in the middle of a small town (about 5000) and yet, few people come to the church from the street on which it is located!
What would happen if we concentrated on getting to know people on ONE street? What would happen if every congregant attending this church actually talked to people on this street about their lives, their dreams, their struggles? Not to fix them but to share life with them? I can only imagine…..!
The United Methodist system of itinerancy has outgrown its usefulness in many situations. I understand the importance for the church to have a variety of leaders, a variety of gifts, a variety of pastors – so people do not begin to worship the pastor, so the pastor is not seen as the only one in charge, so the laity do not lose sight of their call as well – I get all of that. Even with our system of moving pastors around however, these things do not always work out as planned.
The automobile has replaced the horse. Times have changed. How can a church truly be the “parish” if the pastor is not allowed to put down “roots” within the community? Putting down roots is often difficult, I will grant you that. I believe however, that if we are to truly work at connecting people, at building relationships, we must be allowed to be rooted for more than 4 or 6 years even.
I believe that it is precisely within this rootedness of place, that pastors and churches will thrive, will be a vital part of the community in which they are in, and will introduce people to the grace of Jesus Christ in powerful ways.
I pray that those who lead within the UM denomination will begin to look for creative ways to measure and celebrate “success” within these often smaller membership churches that truly incarnate Christ within community. I also pray that as we go to General Conference this year, that we begin to discuss and dream about a future that is changing, not stagnant, not following the crowd, but one that fully lives out the call of Jesus Christ.