Here’s the piece that started it all …
… sort of. My road to blogging was driven by a need to have a way to post this piece that I’d written, which was published in the October 2012 issue of The Lutheran. Of course, there is a backstory to this … a story that started just about a year ago.
In January 2012, one of my pastor-friends on Facebook shared an essay by Bishop Michael Rinehart of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod. I read it and was moved by what the good bishop had to say, so I shared it on Facebook as well. Then that same piece appeared in the February issue of The Lutheran. I was delighted that this important perspective was getting such a wide audience. (I still recommend reading it and here’s a link to Bishop Rinehart’s article: http://http://tlgcconnections.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/insiders-and-outsiders/)
But my hopes that this might prompt a forward-looking discussion in the wider ELCA were quickly disappointed. There were letters arguing that insiders matter, too … articles cautioning against “throwing the baby out with the bathwater by jettisoning our heritage” … yet another go ‘round on the contemporary vs. traditional “worship wars.” All of this was completely aside from what Bishop Rinehart was saying: that the future of the church depends on learning to care about those who are outside of the congregation – and orienting everything we do towards them – instead of taking care of those who are already members.
I was frustrated that people didn’t seem to be getting it. So I fired up my computer and wrote a response that I submitted for consideration for the monthly “My View” feature in the magazine. First, I heard it was being considered; then, a few weeks later, I was told it would be published. Shortly after that, I found myself face-to-face with Bishop Rinehart at the Multi-Cultural Youth Leadership Event prior to the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans. I thanked him for what he wrote and told him that my response would be in the October issue of The Lutheran. He asked me to email him a link to when it appeared … which I did. But most of what I wrote was behind the subscription wall … and now, months later, the entire issue is behind the wall.
So I needed a place where I could post it … a place where it would be more accessible. I’d been thinking about blogging for years. A number of people have complimented my writing. I’m working on a book, so I need to “get my name out there.” So why not? It took some time to find possible host sites … think of a name that would be unique and frame my ideas … find the time to actually DO the work of setting up the site. But here it is (at long last). So I begin with The Piece that Started It All (in its original, unedited version).
An edited version of this piece was published in the October 2012 issue of The Lutheran. This is my original submission ….
I shared Bishop Michael Rinehart’s piece about outsiders and insiders on Facebook weeks before it appeared in The Lutheran. Although his choice of worship, especially hymns, as an example may be offensive to some, he is mostly spot on.
This is not to say that I’m in favor of dumping anything and everything just to catch the attention of the unchurched, dischurched, or otherwise uninterested population. I don’t think the bishop is suggesting that, either. But we have to evaluate every single thing we do in our congregations in terms of its eventual impact on the people who are not a part of faith community. Before you react, allow me to elaborate; we can start with liturgies, hymns, and creeds.
If the creeds help us understand our faith in the God who has called us in baptism so that we can explain what we believe to anyone who asks, keep them. If the hymns we sing overfill us with joy and the love of God so that this spills onto people around us Monday through Saturday, keep singing them. If our liturgy gives us such a solid vision of life as it is under the Reign and Realm of God that we can go out and live by that vision, live in such a way to help bring that vision into everyday reality, then hang on to such liturgies. Let us hang on to anything and everything that helps us live as followers of Jesus in a world that desperately needs the good news.
Jesus’ command to us is that we go out and make disciples, teach what we have learned. That’s the main thing for us as Church. Whatever helps us to be disciples of Jesus who can share the good news of what God is up to in the world is worth doing. Whatever changes will help people around us to hear, understand, and be drawn into this good news are worth making. But anything and everything we do that creates a barrier between others and the gospel, that distorts and distracts from the good news of God has to go – period.
Sooner or later, somehow, some way, everything we do on the inside is going to touch those on the outside … at least, it should. How are we touching those around us, outside as well as inside, with the good news? That’s what matters to Jesus, so it ought to matter to us.
I’m a wife, a mom, a working woman … a preacher, teacher, and student … an ordained pastor and a Certified Information & Referral Specialist. Through it all weaves the theme that runs through the blog: a practicing disciple of Jesus … “practicing” because I’m still a work in progress.
I currently make my home in Saint Paul, Minnesota with my husband, our two teenagers, two cats, and a dog. My roots go back to northeastern Indiana where I was born and grew up. I went to college at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM. Since my graduation with a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering, I’ve lived in Texas, Florida, and Arizona before moving to Minnesota where I attended Luther Seminary. After earning my Master of Divinity degree, I took my first call to a congregation in Kansas. Now I’m back in Minnesota, thanks to my husband’s career, and looking for a call to a congregation … along with many, many other clergy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
In the meantime, I raise my kids, walk the dog, keep up the house, work with other clergy, and provide information and referral services to people looking for help (which is a lot like helping lost souls find a way to go …). Somehow it all fits together; sometimes, it actually makes sense.