We have, by the grace of God, survived the past 15 months of pandemic and social/political upheaval. Better than that, actually…we have grown and tried new things and worked hard to remain faithful to our mission while at the same time learning new techniques, new methods, and new requirements for getting that mission done. Thanks be to God.
Next step: we learn to grow into this new, hybrid, physical/digital culture which is the context in which we live. In fact, we’ve been in such a culture for quite a while. The Church (not just Holy Trinity, but the whole Church) has been slow to adapt to this reality. That’s part of the reason why, since the mid-1950s, things like church affiliation and church attendance have steadily and (of late) quickly declined. The most recent data from Pew Research reveals that less than half of U.S. citizens…48%...now claim membership in any kind of religious organization. That percentage was 70% in 2000.
Note, however, that the world is not necessarily a happier place because fewer folks claim a role for faith in their lives. Quite the opposite. The need for love and acceptance and purpose and community and hope are all still there…hard-wired into our human genome. More than half of us just aren’t looking for those answers in a religious context.
So here we are with this lovely mission statement…to bring Jesus to people through love and the Word of God. It seems to be just the right medicine for the afflictions and needs around us. But fewer and few people truly care about God or sense that their absence from religious practice has any real impact on their lives. So then…what shall we do?
First, we pray for the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Nothing good will happen if the power of God is not evidently at work in and through us. And our awareness of that power always starts with prayer.
And second, we remember why we are here and why it matters and why we believe we are called to this holy work. “We love because God first loved us” the Apostle writes (1 John 4:19). We are here to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are not here to save the Church. (Too late. God already did that in Christ.) We are not here to cajole people into being part of the club. Rather, we are here to love God so that others can likewise fall in love with the God who already loves them. We are here to wake up to the stunning reality of God’s grace for us that is so powerful and complete that the only responses we have are joy and gratitude.
Folks might think they don’t need what the Church has to offer. Perhaps that’s true. If all the Church has to offer is a Sunday morning pew and some committee meetings and financial anxiety, well…they probably don’t need that. Frankly, neither do we. But if the Church is where the love of God is alive and if that’s why we are gathered and sent to embrace our neighbors, then we’ve got good news to proclaim. If our love for God overflows in love and hope for our neighbors, then we’ve got bread to share in a starving world.
Making our way forward in this new day starts with remembering the reason why…and falling in love with God all over again. †