Can you get there from here? (part 1)
I’ve been thinking more about emerging church / institutional church paradigms. This ties back to what I posted a few weeks ago about the church I long for vs. the program-oriented church. In terms of Eastridge, both Pastor Jim and Pastor J.P. have indicated interest in trying some new things. I very much appreciate their willingness to consider some “outside the bounds” ideas. Pastor Jim mentioned the existence of a group in the Presbytery that met recently to talk about declining membership and what the Presbyterian church could do to attract new members.
I’m glad people are asking these questions, and I hope they continue to do so. At the same time, I can’t help but think that, in many ways, trying to incorporate things that are significantly different within the existing institutional framework is problematic.
Eastridge is in the process of establishing a weekly contemporary worship service. There have been some pilot services this summer to give people in the congregation a chance to see what a contemporary-style service would be like, and to work out what’s really required to do one on a regular basis. It will go weekly in early September. I think it’s long overdue, and it will minister to a lot of folks at Eastridge. It’s taken a long time to come together, and it’s met some resistance and criticism. “It’s too loud”. “You make us stand too long”. (Uh…you do have free will, you know. You can sit whenever you’d like). “I don’t like the headset microphones worn by the pastors”. There have been lots of Session meeting discussions about why we’re changing anything. Some people will likely leave Eastridge over it, because while we’re only changing one of the Sunday morning services, we’re changing their service.
And here’s the deal. The approach of “being the church” that I’ve been contemplating makes the fear and trepidation associated with establishing a contemporary service seem like nothing by comparison. The contemporary service represents a stylistic change to one of the Sunday morning worship services, and though to some in the congregation it’s akin to setting their entire world askew, it’s really a relatively minor change in the grand scheme of things. Though there’s a worship team, and contemporary music, and the order of the service is a bit different, it still has all the elements of a fairly standard worship service. And that point was emphasized over and over again by several people as we discussed the issue during session meetings, in an effort to address the fears and concerns of those who were less than enthusiastic about the idea: “It’s really not that different”.
While there are stylistic elements associated with some of the things I’ve been thinking about, many of the ideas represent a fairly significant paradigm shift in the way people think about being the church. And I have to admit – I have a hard time seeing such a different approach being embraced by the establishment.
Iâ€™ll post more on this next week…