Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween: More fuel

A single wrapped piece of American Cheese and an empty Romanoff vodka mini.
I’m anxious. My friends from PHEWA  ( are coming for a day of strategy and planning. Danielle’s not here yet. I can’t figure out how to get the temporary heater on. There’s all this stuff from last night’s concert around. I want to feel good about hosting them. When long time friend John Scotland arrives, in his usual warm and good spirits, I relax. Soon Bebb whose own church in Skocharie New York has been devstated by post Irene flooding arrives. Sees me sweeping. Says Excuse me Mr Janitor, do you know where the pastor is? Then Bill SJ and Martha Bettis Gee from the Lousiville staff arrive. And the heater is on.
We dig into our work. Planning strategy for the coming funding Armageddon due to hit at the end of 2012. The church as we once knew it is quickly disappearing.  The future has to come from well organized networks of  grass roots ministries at the local level. Ever diminshing funding will be determined by the denomiation’s priorities. Which means  as determined by the General Assembly Mission Council which means the Executive Committee which means...At present, the priority is healthy congregations. Which means what exactly? As defined by? (Ironically, much the same emphasis is emerging at the Presbytery level at last weekend’s retreat.) Of course we can agree to that, but....
Yes, just as the job of the congregation is to prepare its individual members for their individual ministries where they live and work, in their daily lives, so too, larger governing bodies, or whatever they’re now called, exist to strenghthen individual congregations in the faithful carrying out of their ministries. But something is missing here...our church has always been about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. There is a called ministry of the whole that canot be carried out by the parts. That is what differentiates us from congregational or free church polities. 
There is also an issue with a decision making process that while seemingly based on a corporate model, feels like a soviet style politbureau process. Any request for detailed information or serious question raising is discouraged as an attempt to micro manage.  This is one plae where conservatives and progressives agree, discontent with an essentially closed system process. 
As numbers and resources dwindle, the church clings desperately to a corporate model whose day is past, that no longer works.  As Occupy... wildifires break out across the globe in response to a system that is irretrievably broken, passionately calling for new ideas, the church seems to believe that it is just a matter of better management, not profound exploration of the spiritual dimension of the questions now being raised everywhere. Forgetting that it is a matter of faithful living, not management. 
Scant resources go for branding and fundraising efforts disguised as communication while  one clever evangelism program gets pushed after another. It is simple...evangelism, fundraising, stewardship..all comes down to one word, relationships. That’s at the base of what every Occupy....manifestation is trying to create. Evangelism is walking with a Korean Presbyterian union organizer who didn’t know the church cared about the exploitation of immigrant workers or Chinese workers who had never been inside a church before. It is being with....that’s all. 
At every level of church snd society the urgent questions being raised are the same. 
We will create that future by being with and by being authentic.By being real,not resigned to being realistic.   By not mistaking  the scheme of things for the way things are. That is how we make a future. For Christ’s sake, literally, it’s time to wake up. 
It’s a long day. Different people duck in and out while we meet. Including Marc checking up on his sound  system. The work is hard. The heater stops. Needs fuel. It’s getting colder. We need tomeet again. We’ve got one last shot. Beyond ideology, beyond theology and ecclesiology, it’s one to one person to person from the ground up. John and I have to go out to buy some diesel. More fuel, yes more fuel.
Bebb, John, Trina, Martha, Bill SJ, Bob
                                           * * * 
Later I go back ot the church to lock up after Symphony rehearsal. George is bac on the front steps. 
 Good evening George, how are you?
Fine, you?
Not bad. I notice a rack of men’s clothes in dry cleaner bags hanging on the scaffolding. 
Where’d the clothes come from?
Lady brough them by.
Don’t suppose any of them fit?
He scowls. Nah, What do you think?
Too small, too small.
And he nods. Lights his cigar. Draws in. Breathes out. 

Ghosts and goblins on their way home.

(The opinions expressed above are personal, not official PHEWA or any other denominational body's )

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