Monday, September 09, 2013

So We Are All Humanists Now? So What?

Rev. Melanie tweets:


All humanists now--well done, almost self-evident. But what do we do w/those pesky marketing disputes?
Anybody who manages to end all those marketing disputes within congregations about which humanist reinterpretation of which religious tradition gets expressed in the liturgy on which Sunday of the month deserves a Nobel Prize. Or at least, a fancy chalice on a sash given at a plenary in GA.
Nonetheless, I have some thoughts.
Let's name the problem properly. We have an atmosphere of persistent theological anxiety. People have the fear that their local congregation is going to change in a way that leaves them out. Or that it won't change enough for them to ever feel at home. As a result, they get very alert to changes in the liturgy of the congregation.
Further: Ministers do not have very much authority that derives from their position as the minister. Even after the extensive and expensive process of education and formation, even after being inspected and evaluated by the MFC, and even after being called by the congregation in a very open, transparent and democratic search process, ministers' authority has to be "earned" as a function of their personality and relational skills.
Further: congregations themselves and ministers are not sufficiently respectful of a congregation's worship tradition or its liturgical tradition. The worship tradition is what gathers and sustains the congregation. A congregation is, at heart, a group of people who gather together to worship in a particular way: what is included, what is excluded, the stylistic range of music, the atmosphere all define the liturgy and hence, the congregation. The minister is the steward of the worship tradition, preserving it and changing it to accurately represent the evolving mission of the congregation. To be more accurate, ministers lead the process of changing the worship tradition.

I get the impression at times that people think that changing the format of the Sunday morning show is easy. After all, we like innovation and experimentation. And we are democratic. So, some people want to junk liturgical elements that have been around for decades, or add quickly add some new ones. "This week, we are going to start clapping."
It just leads to anxiety about the identity of the congregation and results in vigilance about every little change.

So, own, name, and define the worship tradition of the congregation.

Then, quit talking about it all the time. Working within the worship tradition of your congregation, turn your attention to what really matters: expounding on the truths of liberal religion and urging people to make the values of liberality the cornerstones of their lives. There is no message of importance that cannot be creatively expressed within the worship tradition of your congregation right now.




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