There’s a man named Jeremiah Moss who goes around New York City organizing people to decry the closing of some of the mom and pops establishment of the city. Every day many of them close, replaced as if in a blink by chain stores or boutique restaurants serving $36 entrees. Moss does not let this happen silently. He views this transformation of the city negatively: it removes the character, replacing neighborhood cafes with sleek glass buildings where humanity seems incapable of taking a foothold.
I respect Jeremiah Moss. The New York he moved to in the early 1990s is faintly present, and he feels unwelcome in the new place (his apartment complex is soon to turn him out after twenty years). The changes that have occurred around him have not included him or others like him. They have been driven by serving the “haves” rather than the residents of the city.
Change is inevitable. In New York, the owners and founders of restaurants retire, making way for new restaurants. Rarely are any forced out. Yet replacing cozy greasy spoon cafes with slick drug stores may harm the character of a community.
We don’t want to do the equivalent of that in our church. Changes are happening: in three years, 55 people have joined this congregation. Weekly attendance has risen by 40%. With this new energy, new gifts are ready to be used. If we did nothing, things would change.
Yet, I think the role of the church is, as Walter Brueggemann wrote when he described the purpose of a psalm, to “nurture, nourish, and evoke” the gifts of the people of God in the service of God. To do this now means that we should explore how we can change to nourish the people that are here, nurture their call to ministry, and evoke new ministries to serve the community.
If we do this, I think the changes we make will be respectful of our history while becoming more responsive to God’s call upon us today. Part of our change is to create a “relational culture” so that no one feels left out, for example. Perhaps this is where our church differs from the changes Jeremiah Moss witnesses in New York: our change is about creating better relationships with one another! Our change is equipping you, the people of God, to use your gifts to their fullest. We give thanks that we're together on this.
Shalom, Pastor Ryan