So, I got calls and emails from people, apologizing that I didn’t have a good experience at the McLaren conference. But I did. Please, let me be clear. I think he’s doing wonderful things. It was great to see the conservative/liberal divide collapsing.
I had a bad experience with someone in the pew… but I know that’s not an overall reflection of anything. I know how heart breaking it is for me when a visitor to our church has a bad experience with someone in the pew.
As church leaders, we try to make sure that everyone feels welcome. We train our ushers and our members to be nice to visitors. We talk about loving one another. We work hard at being friendly. I mean, really. It seems like it should be a given, but we’re always reminding each other, in the Deacon’s meetings, in our board meetings, in all of our gatherings, “We don’t want to see anyone standing alone. We all know how excruciating it is to stand at a cocktail party and not have anyone to talk to. Well, church is worse, because we don’t even have the drinks. So, don’t talk to your friends. Talk to strangers.”
It works, for the most part…. But, the sad truth is that the pastors and church leaders really can’t control what people in the pew say to one another. We’re an inclusive, urban church. We have homeless people sitting next to CEOs. We have people who are slipping in and out of dementia. We have some who are depressed, some are anxious. None of us are there because we’ve got it all together. And sometimes things are said… and sometimes I’m making phone calls to apologize. And sometimes the calls work, but sometimes we lose people.
I hate losing people.
But, if I may be so unfocused, let me go back to the great divide. I’ve been trying to articulate something without sounding ageist. And I don’t quite know how to do it…. I’ve linked to this report before (sorry it costs money), but in it, it talks about generations in marketing terms: Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, etc. And one thing that it suggests is that Boomers are idealistic. They love to argue and fight over principles and beliefs. Gen Xers are more pragmatic and innovative. They would rather cut through the discussions, get work done, and start new stuff.
This makes so much sense to me as I look at the church. As older generations chip away at the beauracracy, as they talk over LGBT ordination over and over again, as they write papers and send overtures, I speak to people in my generation, they say, “I’m tired of talking about it.”
And I say, “What do you mean? You just went to one meeting.” But usually, one advocacy meeting is more than enough.
In general, I want to state my beliefs and move on (but, of course, I worry that we might have to quite literally move on, the way this is all panning out… I’m afraid our church may lose an entire generation over LGBT ordination).
There are, of course, good things about the idealism. It brought us Civil Rights, after all. And there are many irritating things about my generation–like their incredibly annoying habit of NOT VOTING. What is up with that?
I guess it’s been helpful for me to understand what’s happening, but I would hate to funnel energy into another divide. So, what do you think? Do you see this shift? Would it be better to think in terms of a shift in cultural milieu instead of a generational shift?
Of course, my answer to our liberal/conservative divide is inclusion. I would love it if the conservatives could be conservative and progressives could be progressive. But is it possible? My progressive vision easily includes conservatives, but can there be a conservative vision that includes liberals? Is there any talk of that out there?