Tonight I went to a bittersweet celebration for my friend, RevFun. At the same time we marked the 25th anniversary of his ordination, we looked ahead to the closing of the church he founded, which will worship together for the last time on September 13th.
Lots of new church starts don't make it, in the sense of becoming numeric or financial successes. You have to hit a sweet spot of demographics and energy and skills in the congregation and who knows what else. RevFun and I learned all about that at the New Church Leadership Institute last summer, and we whapped ourselves in the heads and said, "THAT would have been good to know!" More than once.
But what they did so well at Open House is something the rest of us need to learn and make part of ourselves and our churches.
The old way of doing church will not sustain itself forever, and it's just possible God is calling us to new life, not just with new vocabulary for the things we do and but with completely new ways of being. We need to welcome people not just with a handshake and a nametag but by talking together about what we do and why we do it, and maybe by deciding what we do is no longer what pleases God if it leaves people cold, people who won't have the experience of Christ's loving community because the way we worship feels like, well, nothing to them.
At Rock 'n Roll Church, they rewrote The Lord's Prayer. Heresy, right? I remember wondering, what the heck? Why'd they do that? But tonight I heard their words, the ones they discussed and chose together, set to music, and they moved me. They moved me. I hope they'll move you, too.
A Prayer of Jesus
Dear God who is everywhere
You are pure and perfect.
May this world become entirely yours.
Help us to do what you want,
Completely and perfectly,
Until earth is like Heaven.
Sustain us in life and spirit today,
And forgive us the harm we cause,
As we forgive those who harm us.
When we are tested, keep us in the light
And don't let us be lost to darkness.
For to you belongs the whole universe
The mighty strength and everlasting love.
Let it be so.