Every first and third Tuesday of the month, several young adults from our church, as well as a smattering of young-at-heart adults, gather for an alternative worship service. At our most recent gathering of “Wild Goose Worship,” the question was raised: “Which traditions do we continue, here in the church, even though they’re outdated or even silly?”
As everyone looked around and tried to avoid answering the question, we realized this might not be a question we wanted to answer. In naming a “silly” tradition, am I stomping on sacred territory and tender feelings?
I took a deep breath. After all, I’ve been in church for a good, long while and I’m rarely afraid to speak my mind. “I think,” I informed the group, “that we have a lot of silly traditions in the church. Think about Christmas and the Chrismon tree. How many people even know what that is anymore or know what the different symbols mean?”
One of the young women started laughing. “I didn’t even know it had a name or that the ornaments meant anything. I thought those were just shiny decorations for the tree.”
“We have papers explaining each of the symbols. I print them for people, every once in awhile. But even I don’t read them, mostly because I don’t care,” I admitted. Of course, this is probably not something a member of the clergy, especially one who has long professed the importance of education in the church, should announce.
Another woman quickly responded with, “Even if you gave me the paper, I wouldn’t read it.”
Okay, so much for the apparently obsolete Chrismon tree.
The conversation continued and then came a comment that gave me pause. BIG PAUSE. “I think a silly tradition is having to come to church every Sunday morning. Really? Every Sunday? When do we get to sleep in?”
Ack! What? Now, I was born and raised in the church and chose church as my way of life and my calling.
I could have argued. I could have given the speaker a list of reasons why she was wrong. Why we NEED to be in church every Sunday morning. Really. EVERY Sunday morning.
I could listen. I could hear this younger generation speak. I could hear their thoughts and feelings. I could understand their lives and the decisions they are making and what it is that they need us to know. I could meet them where they are. Help them meet and find and know God in ways that are meaningful for them in their lives. Maybe slip into their sandals and walk the highways and byways with them – for at least a mile or two. I could accept the fact that while some folks still find meaning sitting on their rumps in the church pews on Sunday mornings, these younger folks find their meaning elsewhere, doing things differently.
I can argue or I can listen.
Which is the better way?