tr.v. sal-vaged 1) to save from loss or destruction; 2) to save discarded or damaged material for future use. Welcome to the blog of Katie Z. Dawson – United Methodist pastor and Coordinator for Imagine No Malaria in Iowa
At our conference Orders Event a few weeks ago, we talked a lot about being anxious. The talk was from a systems theory perspective and focused on how pastors need to be non-anxious participants in the system to effectively lead change and help the system to be healthy.
I’m not going to comment on the style of the presentation, but I realized as the day went on that I am not at all anxious about the future of the church.
Maybe it is because I’m one of those “young adults” who don’t put a lot of stock in the institution itself. (As much as I hate the constant labeling of young adults and the characterization of who they are and what they believe - sometimes the label fits and I’m going to wear it with pride). The truth is, if it all went upside down tomorrow, I have faith and trust that God would birth something new.
There is a feeling all around us that we need to do something to right this leaning ship… that it is all in danger of capsizing or falling apart. But would that really be so terrible?
Don’t get me wrong… Part of me loves this church. I know its not perfect. It is trying to hear God’s call and struggling to answer. It is broken and beautiful. I see and recognize its flaws, but I love it. I’m still here, aren’t I?
But part of me really doesn’t care if the church is here tomorrow… as long as we are being faithful to the one we claim to worship inside the walls of those fancy buildings.
It is… well, interesting to live in the midst of this both/and situation. I find myself both working proactively to restructure and revitalize what is present, while I find comfort and solace in small communities of folks who gather to read and discuss and lift up hopes and dreams. You might be able to tell just by how I worded that sentence that the hard proactive work makes me want to tear out my hair more than it bathes me in the hope and joy of the Lord.
But I’m still here. Still plodding along. I’m not worried. I’m going to do what I can. I’m going to use the best of my resources. But I’m not anxious. If our best human efforts fail… if this institution can’t be saved by our hands, so be it. Maybe then we’ll finally remember the church isn’t a place but a people. Maybe we’ll see a resurrection out of death. Maybe that’s what the whole gospel is about. Not us, not our attempts… but the love and grace of God that overcomes all. ALL. Even the “death tsunami.”
It strikes me that maybe it is exactly my “live or let die” casual spirit about the whole future of the church that keeps getting me invited to those grueling conversations about what we are going to do to save ourselves. While others worry about this and fret about that and leverage positions and ministries and try this and that… I’m the non-anxious presence in the room. I can sit and listen. I can interpret. I can pray. I can offer guidance and direction. But as much as I love this church, I also have the ability to detach myself from its survivability. I don’t necessarily have a dog in the fight.
As I talk with my other young adult colleagues, we see a completely different church ahead of us. A church of collaboration and connection, networking and accountability. We know that there is money in some far off pension fund, but we don’t actually believe we’ll ever see it. We buy into the system, but we aren’t counting on it to sustain us. We are just at the beginning of giving 40+ years to the institution… whether or not it is actually around for that long. We love it, but if it all fell apart, we’d pick ourselves up and move on to the new thing God is doing.
But please, don’t take that to mean that we aren’t trying, that we are lazy, or that we are just sitting back waiting for it to die.
What it means is that in the midst of doing this thing called church, we are eagerly looking around to see where God might lead us next.
Anxious? Nope. Not in the least.
Honey badger don’t care.