Well, that was fun!
Not so much the temporary alterations in the sanctuary. For many of us, those were not fun. For others, they were a lot of fun.
No, what I really enjoyed – am enjoying still – is the discussion.
For good or for ill, I am a well-educated Millenial, and that means that there is next to nothing I enjoy more than a really good conversation around issues of importance about which people of passion and heart disagree. Where there are perspectives and experiences and differences and similarities. In this whole discussion I have learned a whole heaping helping about where people came from, what they care about – and what’s important to me.
Some things I heard over the last few weeks:
The sanctuary this way feels like a theater.
The sanctuary this way feels much more intimate.
I like that I can see all my friends and neighbors – I’m looking at more than the backs of heads.
I dislike not knowing where to sit or look or how to do things like the Offering or Communion
I love the circle at the end being a real CIRCLE.
I don’t like how this was sprung on us.
Here’s the trick, says the post-modernist Millenial pastor – every perspective I hear on this is right. You all have points, many of which would not have occurred to me. There are things that I liked and didn’t like about the configuration – parts that were easier and parts that were harder. I reject the idea that there is one right way to worship Jesus Christ. There are familiar ways and unfamiliar ways, enthusiastic ways and quiet ways, traditional ways and innovative ways.
My questions for you all, and the question that I heard you expressing over the last few weeks, are these:
What are the most important things to St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in your worship?
How will you deal with the fact that not everyone wants or gets the same things out of worship?
No matter how much you disliked this experiment, there were people who loved it. No matter how much you enjoyed this experiment, there were folks who found it really uncomfortable. The value in it, as far as I’m concerned, is in the conversation – the coming to understand one another. And in the coming to understand what St. Andrew, as a worshipping community, values in its worship. Things that came up in that conversation? Sacraments. Preaching. Music. Reverence. Joy. Accommodations for young and old alike. Community. Family. Cleave to those, my friends – the values that were shared whether you liked worship in the round or the proscenium arch (our more traditional formation).
In the not too distant future, I will be gone. I hope to leave with you all two legacies, if I do my work correctly. First, an awareness that you are the church. You are God’s people, seeking to worship God, and to be transformed by God, daily. You all get to decide what that looks like – no one else can decide it for you.
Secondly, a set of tools for managing conflict. At seminary I heard a statistic that has stuck with me: In successful couples of long-standing, 70% of their conflicts remain unresolved. That is to say, that fight over whether the toilet paper roll should spill over or under the roll is not actually settled one way or the other – but successful couples do a good job of managing their conflict.
So, too, the church. You will have conflicts again, brothers and sisters. About worship, about mission, about stewardship. Conflicts are an inevitable feature of human life. Can you, as a community, manage your conflict well? Can you listen respectfully to people with whom you disagree? Can you argue your viewpoint passionately without denigrating or denying someone else’s experience? Can you let the Presbyterian Process ™ grind to its conclusion, and stay committed to this community even when Session or the congregation votes differently than you do?
I have great confidence in this family of faith. This conflict has been managed appropriately from day one, with communication, clarity, and process. You all have the tools. Remember to use them in Christ’s Name, and you will carry on building God’s Kingdom here on earth.