Dear President Trump,
Because we were to sing in the service, Soul Choir folks sat together up towards the front of the sanctuary yesterday. I got to sit between the two oldest members of the choir, one of whom I know is 90 (she’s both very proud to lived so long and hates that she has to deal with being old). The other is probably very close to 90, though she’s much more reserved and I don’t know for sure. We were chatting about church and since they both live in the nearby affiliated retirement home the talk turned to how many people who live there used to come to church but don’t any more. The for sure 90-year-old woman said she thinks it’s because there’s now a strong focus on racial justice, but the other woman said, no, she really doesn’t think it’s that – she thinks people don’t like that worship services are more interactive than they used to be (the example she gave was people saying “amen” during sermons).
I think they’re both right. There have been too many stories of too many older white members having said to our pastor (who I think I’ve told you is an African American woman) something along the lines of “the social justice stuff is all well and good, but I’m not racist and I don’t see why we have to focus so much on race” to blow past the race explanation. I’ve also heard lots (and lots) of negative feedback from people about even the tiniest (to me) adjustments to elements of the worship service.
I do get it, at least to some extent. When something’s been a known that’s been counted on for years and years, it’s hard to have it change and it’s especially hard to have it change when no one asked you if you were ok with said change. It’s also hard to be confronted with up close and personal race (and gender, trans, sexual orientation, class, disability, etc.) issues when what you want in a worship service is to be comforted and told everything is fundamentally fine, that it’ll all be great with just a tiny bit of tweaking.
A little later in the conversation the 90-year-old said she thinks that the church leadership needs to be careful not to alienate those older folks who aren’t coming but who are still members because they have big estates and could leave money to the church. I thought it was interesting that the other woman said no, the church needs to do what the church needs to do to keep growing and changing, that people will come along or they won’t but we can’t let ourselves be beholden to old money that will keep us trapped. Amen.
May we be safe to push out of our comfort zones.
May we be happy to flex and not insist everything be like it’s always been.
May we find a both/and balance that honors tradition and invites growth.
May we get to sit next to wise people who’ve made peace with change.