“I wonder… What if?… Let’s try!”
This phrase is echoing in my head often these days. It’s mainly because I have a two-year-old and it was this season’s theme (and theme song) repeated ad nauseam on every episode of Sesame Street that we’ve watched lately. But more than being an annoying earworm living rent-free in my head, It’s on my mind because I think it captures so well the spirit necessary for faithful ministry in this era of church life.
As countless outlets and research firms have reported [Pew Research, Barna Group] we are in an era of church decline. Church attendance and religious affiliation have been dropping in the US for decades. We are no longer in a place as a society where time spent with your faith is a normal part of the average person’s week. While the immediate reaction to this in the church has been grief and nostalgia, harkening back to the church as we used to know it and having to be defensive, protective and a bit fearful over every decision made. I think the time has come that we can move on from this mindset and embrace the idea that it is the Spirit of God that has brought us to where we are as a church and as a society.
What if we see this not as an era of decline, but as a new era of possibility for church. What if we see this as a new season in which we might more authentically embrace our calling. What if we embrace this time as a new age of experimentation, creativity, flexibility, and possibility. The old familiar ways of discipleship no longer make sense, so we must discover new ways of being the church for such a time as this, which is why I so love the sesame street phrase. I think it gives us all super simple steps to begin to figure out where the spirit is at work, and how we might best serve God and follow Christ in this new era. “I wonder… What if?… Let’s Try!” invites us to bring a spirit of curiosity, creativity, joy, and playfulness back to the work before us. In short, it helps our ministry and faith be life-giving.
Here are a couple of ways this phrase has inspired us lately at my church:
1. Our church has a house that is normally rented by students but was unexpectedly empty for a year.
I wonder… are there other folks we could offer the house to and use it for other ministries?
What if… we used the house to welcome refugees in need of affordable housing in a city in the midst of a housing crisis?
Let’s Try! We called CRIS and now almost a year later we are housing 5 Afghan men who were separated from their families.
2. OSU’s presbyterian campus ministry hadn’t had students in three years.
I wonder… where can we send students at OSU that reflect our values as a church? Oh! There is a vibrant Lutheran campus ministry – Jacob’s Porch – that looks just like most presbyterian ministries.
What if… we didn’t just send students but partnered with this ministry?
Let’s try! We began conversations with the presbytery and now we fund and support Jacob’s Porch as a presbyterian campus ministry, recommend students on OSU’s main campus to go there, and are in the early stages of hiring a presbyterian campus minister to serve there.
3. As a church most folks are only in the building on Sunday morning and we struggle to be in relationship with our neighbors.
I wonder… How might we be in relationship with our neighbors when we aren’t around, and they aren’t likely to come to church?
What if… we see some spaces on our property not as “ours” but belonging to the neighborhood for students to use? What if we turn our lawn into a public green space, a pocket park?
Let’s try! We built a “Hammock Garden” to give students a space to “hang” on our lawn and are in conversations with the university district, OSU, and Columbus Neighborhood design to co-design our lawn with students into a pocket park for the neighborhood.
What is BSPC wondering about?
you tried it!
-Written by Rev. Trip Porch, Pastor at Indianola Presbyterian Church
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