Monday, July 19, 2004

out of the mouths of babes
Our church sits out in the sticks, right across from a cornfield.  The drive is beautiful, the changing seasons always offering us a different view of the farms and woods.  Two things, other than houses, remain consistent.  The cows in the farm on the left are always grazing in one of two fields.  And one church we pass, during times they're not holding a service, always strings chains up in front of their driveway.
Stay out!  Keep out of our church!  We always say as we drive by.  We don't want your type in here!
Last night, on our way to our own church for a square dance (Maryland's official Folk dance) we saw the chains again.  We have no chains on our parking lot.  Some of the neighborhood kids skateboard there.
Stay out!  Keep out of our church!  You're not like us and we don't want you!
Jake says, "Keep away!  We're an antique!"
Now Jake's ten.  He had no idea how funny that statement actually is, and maybe even a little profound.  There's a protective quality to some old-line churches, isn't there?  As if somebody different might just walk in, touch things, and church and God as they know it might crumble around them, and then what?
All this to say, let's make today a day we don't stagnate.  See Will's blog about the Sudan if you want to feel deeply.


Blogger Deborah said...

When I lived in Nova Scotia, a tiny Anglican church with beautiful stained glass windows in the village of Bear River used to leave its heavy wooden door unlocked so that any time of the day or night, one could go inside the sanctuary and pray.

I used to avail myself of that sacred spot often, sometimes spending up to two hours there alone praying because my life back then was so full of anguish.

Then, one day I discovered someone had thrown a rock through one of the stained glass windows. A rock right through the only window that depicted Jesus. Shards of glass lay on the altar.

After that, the church stayed locked.

I wonder what assaults from the world that congregation with the chain across its parking lot has experienced. Have they been hit with a law suit because somebody skateboarding broke their collarbone? Were young people doing wheelies in the parking lot and risking their lives? Has their church lawyer warned them of legal liabilities if they don't put up the chain?

Some members of old line churches have been deeply hurt by change--the music isn't what they were comfortable with, the prayer books are gone, so are the hymnals, the theology doesn't even seem the same.

Though I support and love a seeker friendly church, I now attend an antique where many of the people are grumpy because of change and have stedfastly resisted it. And I see some of the richness in the tradition that's now being in danger of being lost and say, wow, this antique is worth preserving and cherishing. That tradition is new to me, and I'm drinking deep and the water is not stagnant at all.

It is sad when antiques end up in museums, roped off, where no one can touch them or enjoy them.

But I understand the protective quality, because I see something so worth preserving that I wouldn't want the altar replaced by an overhead screen, or pews replaced by stacking chairs. I yearn for the days of old cathedrals that took years and years to build and exhibited the kind of craftsmanship you never see these days in modern, functional churches. I yearn for a convergence of beautiful music and words and architecture and theology and living faith. So often, you only have one out of five or two out of five. The churches with the beautiful architecture and music have rotten theology, the churches with good theology have lousy music and architecture.

July 20, 2004 at 6:12 PM  

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