There is no doubt that, as Susan Brown Snook recently wrote, it is not restructuring that will save us, but reawakening. Indeed, in Jim Collins’ book How the Mighty Fall (relevant reading for mainline clergy), he notes that restructuring initiatives are often part of the process of decline.
Reawakening means recognizing that even though we do need to restructure, our life in Christ depends on much more. It includes a certain level of holy indifference: If we live, we live to the Lord… if we die, we die to the Lord… so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. (Romans 14:8) It includes a willingness to discern what is true, and look the truth in the face. For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:8-10)
As a member of the search team for our next bishop in the Diocese of Western Michigan, I’ve been studying the data about our diocese. When our profile is published early next month, our major findings will be shared with the world… including our next bishop, whomever he or she may be.
Our data includes both challenging and encouraging facts about our life together. On one hand, only about half of our churches can afford a full-time priest. Even our largest congregations are not the size that are generally considered “resource parishes” – large enough to have resources to share. On the other hand, despite the recent financial downturn, average giving to annual operating budgets of churches held steady across the diocese. Most of our congregations have at least six months of operating funds in savings.
Facts matter, because without facts we cannot make wise choices. It is by wise choices, “pleasing to the Lord,” we may thrive to minister for years to come. Facts serve us well when we see them in their proper place: as servants of our mission to make disciples of Christ and minister to the world in His name. We may not always like the facts before us, but as disciples of Christ we cannot fail to acknowledge them, recognizing that no fact – indeed, nothing at all – can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This post is excerpted from Nurya Love Parish’s blog, Plainsong Farm. Read the full post here.
The Rev. Nurya Love Parish is Associate Priest at St. Andrew’s, Grand Rapids and Communications liaison for the Diocese of Western Michigan Bishop Search Team. She blogs for www.buildfaith.org, an online Christian education community, and at her own blog, www.plainsongfarm.com. She welcomes your thoughts in response to this article at nuryaloveparish at gmail.com.