Hello Washington

July 17, 2019

From the Pastor

Hello, friends! I hope you all had a great summer, and are looking forward to the coming change of seasons. For myself, it has been a summer full of moving in, setting up and planning, with a break in the middle for some important down time at the beach.

As a part of my planning and also my down time, I have been reflecting on the state of the Washington New Church, and also of the world at large around us. When I look at this congregation, here’s what I see:

We have a lot of really good people who care about the health and success of our church community and school. This shows up in many ways, including volunteering to get all sorts of jobs done, providing financial donations, and actively participating in our worship services and social gatherings. What’s more, we have some participation from representatives of multiple age groups, which is not always true in many church communities. And we have a lot of people who are serious and dedicated when it comes to living the life of religion as defined for the New Church.

We also have declining numbers in both our worship participation and our school enrollment. And while we do have some younger adults engaged in the life of the church, we don’t really have so many from that age group that one could confidently predict the continued existence of this group forty years from now.

So far I don’t think I’ve said anything here that most people didn’t already know. Basically, I believe we are a healthy yet fragile, society. And I believe that there is a path for us to follow that will build on our strengths while shoring up our weaknesses. Right now we have an excellent foundation from which to grow in new ways, and I am excited by the possibilities that are before us. Our task now is to confirm our commitment to the core elements that are our strengths, and then look at everything else with an open mind. Changes will need to be made if we want the Washington New Church to continue to serve people in the next generation, but that doesn’t mean we have to lose anything essential.

What we do need to lose, however, is complacency. Complacency comes from success, and in the long arc of this congregation’s history, there has been a lot of success. From its founding, this community has done a great deal of good in the world. So it could be easy for us to rest on our past a little longer, to coast along doing what has always been done, and to take a wait and see approach toward the future. To do so would be wasting an opportunity.

Right now, we are in a strong enough position that we can afford to experiment a little–to try new ideas and new approaches toward accomplishing the mission we’ve always had. But that window of opportunity is slowly closing. In another ten years, if nothing changes, we will be a little bit smaller, and so a little less resilient. With fewer people around, we will have fewer options for change.

There is no reason for panic or anxiety today. Today we are still a healthy, useful part of the Lord’s larger kingdom. But let’s not waste this opportunity. If we can be willing to adapt to the needs of our surrounding community and of our own younger generations, then we will set the stage for another half century of fruitful service as a church.

And this is not just about “survival”. Surviving in some form isn’t that hard. What I’m asking for is a commitment to thriving. Because the world around us desperately needs us. It’s a topic for another time, but in brief I see a lot of needless suffering in our surrounding culture, and a lot of it is directly addressable by healthy church communities. In today’s world people are increasingly feeling a lack of three things: meaning, purpose and connection. This leads to despair, addiction, violence, suicide, and other forms of human suffering. But the Washington New Church can play a powerful local role in countering those evils.

That’s the opportunity I see before us. I want to see what we can do to strengthen the church because I think we have a role to play in how the Lord relieves suffering. But only if we decide to step up to the opportunity while it is here.

More on this in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I want to hear from you: what do you consider the essence of what is good about the Washington New Church? Write, call, or drop by and tell me what’s important to you about what we do and who we are. I look forward to hearing from you.

Mac Frazier – August 27, 2019

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