A raindrop falls
Into the ocean.
Is it lost --
The first thing that came to mind for me (probably because I am of a certain age) was death. When we die, are we then lost, or finally found? I think as well that this image and quotation might apply to those struggling with – and overcoming – addiction of any sort: lost, and then found, for certain. It may also be applicable to those of us who lose our jobs and discover we need to reinvent ourselves. If we’re lucky, we are indeed, found.
But there is another possibility on my mind and my heart, and that is the local church (and likely the local temple as well). Organized religion is struggling; attendance is down, older buildings take much of our finances. The picture is grim. New ways must be imagined. Those of us who are at the core of organized religion make up the droplet. And this is the time to come to grips with whether we will be lost, or whether we will be found.
Like so much in this complicated world or ours, it may not be an either/or choice, but rather the proverbial both/and. We may be “lost” to our large historic buildings – and the “find” might be the church in whatever form, being more centered in the community in which we live. We will “lose” our inward look (so long the focus of our congregations), and “find” mission and ministry in our community and beyond; this will require a major effort and shift of intentions. There are yet more facets which people far better prepared than I, can tell us about.
Recently I spoke with a friend (a member of my congregation) who really pushed me to see the financial reality of our church, and made it clear that the 20 some-things today do not believe that they need church in their lives – after all they have friends and circles of care. Without young people coming into the church, our church, other churches, has/have no sustainable future. I’ve thought about that, and so have been pondering “why church?”. What reasons do I have, for finding church to be an important part of my life? In my congregation we do “community” really, really well. Many of the un-churched folks have this too. But our community runs across generations – and that is a gift. It’s unlikely that this is the experience of young people today – tell me if I’m wrong. When we’re young we do not imagine what needs might come up down the road. Not every young person will marry. Not all who marry will have children. A faith community is a caring community which will reach out and support those who might not have built-in familial care.
Beyond the issue of care is the exposure to people of many generations. Some young people will have children, but will be living far from either maternal or paternal grandparents. In a faith community some of those older folks delight to “stand in” as the elder in a child’s life. For those of us without children, I can only describe getting to witness and coming to love those we get to know in church as pure delight! Generations working together is important for our society as we move forward – hopefully doing ever better than we have in the past.
But the best reason for church is the simple reminder of how much we are loved by God. In recent years I have discovered that I am not the only person on the face of the earth that feels “less than” – less than worthy, less than deserving, less than one who can be wholly and unconditionally loved. I know of no other place where this message is given out consistently. I need to hear it – again, and again, and again. And I suspect it is a message all of us need to hear.
I don’t know if the church in general, or my church in particular, will survive these difficult times. I pray that we will, in one form or another. Trusting is after all, an act of faith. I trust that God will find us, even if or when, we ourselves, feel lost.