Yesterday, after a contemporary music service, a friend said “you know, we HAVE to do this. There are too many other places people can go, if we don’t.” She’s a member of our UU congregation, but also frequents a Unity congregation as well as a Science of Mind Center for Spiritual Living.
Last week, Diana Butler Bass published yet another round of figures on the decline of organized religion in the US, entitled “The End of Church“. Her conclusion:
Americans are searching for churches — and temples, synagogues, and mosques — that are not caught up in political intrigue, rigid rules and prohibitions, institutional maintenance, unresponsive authorities, and inflexible dogma but instead offer pathways of life-giving spiritual experience, connection, meaning, vocation, and doing justice in the world. Americans are not rejecting faith — they are, however, rejecting self-serving religious institutions.
I’m honing in on “rigid rules and prohibitions [and] institutional maintenance”. What better way to describe a dogged insistence on traditional worship? Does our weekly worship practice really offer a pathway of life-giving spiritual experience? Or does it focus entirely on the comfort of current members, while avoiding the challenge of change (which might bring in new faces and ideas)?
In response to Butler Bass, David Owen-O’Quill observes
I would be wary of any leadership argument that suggests we can change things by demanding that we stay right where we are on our collective comfortable asses. This is like the tried and true argument about church growth happening when the younger generation returns because they have kids. The brilliance of the argument is in its action plan – just sit and wait, no change necessary. …
Will the church continue to put forth its resources and work to slow the decline of its current institutional incarnation. Or will we reorient our mission to connect with the vast majority of Americans and be a part of this era’s “new Great Awakening.”
That’s what all my posts are about — reevaluating our traditional practices to “connect with the vast majority of Americans”, which means almost all of them when you count non-UUs. The music is a very important part, but it’s not the only part. I think this song embodies the right spirit: music you can’t get out of your head and a call to action: “Why don’t you break my heart ’til it moves my hands and feet?”