This conversation is life giving.
And, how ironic, in a way, to say “life-giving” when we are also talking about decline and demise. But this should not be surprising.
New life abounds, Spirit-energy pulses, and before long we have an institution on our hands! What the heck!?!? No one planned for this! In fact, everyone hoped against it. But it happened. It happened and it will happen again, against our designs and against our will. And it will happen to the renewal movements we form to combat the institutions we don’t like and don’t want to become.
This is just the way it works with human organizations (and it does no good to say everyone else is an institution but Quakerism is not…Quakers are NOT exempt from this).
But there comes a moment every once in a while when we look at what we are holding on to and we ask ourselves whether it is worth it, and whether what we are holding on to is what really is important.
This time comes for all sorts of reasons…maybe we see the thinness of what our lives have become, or we wonder why the same conflicts badger us that plagued the group we thought we were improving, or we sense a huge disconnect between the gospel of Christ and into what we are investing our time and money and sweat and the best years of our lives.
Are we holding on to Christ or to Christianity? Are we holding on to love or to programs of measured compassion? Are we pouring our lives into the new work of God into which the Spirit is breathing life, or are we trying to resuscitate yesterday’s glory?
It’s hard, and anyone who says this is not a scary place to be is lying. We care about the things we hold on to; they become precious over time. But faithfulness to the living God means we will be on the move and that we will need to hold lightly, even those things that mean the world to us. The call to be disciples, friends of Jesus, is to keep our eyes open and to press into life, into the good creation of God.
Whatever postmodernity means, it is one of those moments when we look at what we have in our hands and ask whether we are where we need to be…whether we are doing and being what we need to do and be.
The familiar patterns of church/meeting life have wonderful, life affirming dimensions which we would be crazy to throw away. And at the same time, the structures, practices, activities, and forms, are often premised on a world that does not exist in the same way it did when those were put in place.
Likewise, the seminaries where we form women and men to vocation and where we strengthen gifts, have done and continue to do some things right. However, the realities of living culture, the growth and decay of creation (God’s and humanity’s and GodHuman), and the shifting ways we interact with each other and the world mean that, if we are not careful, our seminaries will be little more than institutions that perpetuate a status quo that cannot even see today, much less tomorrow!
We can hold on tightly and run with confidence toward yesterday, but God will not be there. God was there but is no longer. In fact, neither will be anyone else be there. It is a desolate place and populated only by the ghosts of our memory.
But God calls us to a future that will take all our energy to imagine. God is there and so is everything that pulses with life. I for one, want to press into that future.