Archive for December 3rd, 2013

This might be winter, or it might be spring. It’s sometimes difficult to tell by just bare branches and temperature. Dem bones might be fixin’ to walk around, or maybe not.

20131203-164900.jpgI was thinking about endings and beginnings because I got word that a church where I used to attend Vacation Bible School had closed, due to lack of attendance. And, apparently, a lack of due process, because some of the parishioners showed up one recent Sunday and discovered locked doors to a deserted building.

Say what you like about Advent-only churchgoers, but that does seem a bit cold.

Or sad, or wearisome, or Another Sign of the Apocalypse ™…..

“Let’s go to Vacation Bible School!
Let’s go to Vacation Bible School!
Come along, we need you
Bring along your friends, too
We will learn of Jesus: He’s our Savior, Lord, and King!” (repeat)

A kind white-haired Mrs. was at the piano; Pastor S led the singing and the pledge to the Christian flag.  I found the Christian flag puzzling, since I never had seen such a thing at other churches I’d attended, and the pledge sounded much too much like the Pledge of Allegiance to the US flag (I haven’t looked this up, but I’m going to guess that these were written about the same time, and perhaps by the same interest groups).

There was singing, and a lesson of the day, and small group crafts, juice and cookies, and then back to a group sing-along, and dismissal.  I saw children that I didn’t see at other times of the year, even though this church was only blocks from my home.  Maybe it was because some of the kids were in Catholic school, or maybe it was because my family attended the same denomination, but at a location several miles away, where stone arches held ornate stained glass and the congregation was less suspended in aspic from the Eisenhower era.

The VBS didn’t talk about hell, or mortal vs venial sins, or Acts of Contrition, which I knew my Catholic friends heard about on a regular basis. Back then, church was a default, and the streets around all the houses of worship in my town would be blocked up with parked cars on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings.

Now, not so much. I know there was a shift at some point…when I started coming home for weekends and seeing that the streets weren’t clotted with cars.  …When I didn’t see wedding celebrations pouring down the steps almost every other weekend afternoon.  …When I myself moved near a church and then stopped going in on a regular basis. These things happened, and I’m sure there are explanations, if not good ones.

Sometimes I wonder if the constant sense of unworthiness actually kept people coming, and the switch from “You had better come talk to us” to “We would love you to come visit us” knocked the legs out from under the structure.  Or that parents now believe competitive sporting events will “do more” for their children than being in a community of people who raise money for missions near and far, or being in a place that teaches about rewards that do not come with a team banner or potential scholarship. [There may be sentence fragments here.]

Church attendance in many places has become generational, and I’m just in that cusp group that grew up with the custom, but with a majority of  friends who never saw the need, or went because they had to and then, well, there are other things to do on Sunday morning, other ways to give back to “the community”, other things to think about than the Divine.  So I walk in and people want me to stay, want me to be welcomed, and might even welcome me to the lectern… and I think: who is the target audience and where are they? Are the people who most need to hear good news ever even in the building?

Flip that over: what good is an empty building?  Imagine what could be done with a building and auditorium, given people who would take seriously the work of caring for the poor, the lonely, the lost…*

Well, for starters, the zoning board would have a fit, and the ever so nice neighbors would want it out of town. In which case, maybe the sepulchre should stay closed, as a witness to what isn’t working.

* to be fair, the functioning Church next door is really trying to do this

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Some old bits of pine were removed from the house structure recently, and the interior of this shattered bit just gleamed so nicely in the sun…

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