Honestly, Joy seems like too much to ask for right now. It is the most difficult of the Advent virtues: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love. It feels like an unlikely indulgence for the privileged, unconscionable in light of today’s news.
This is how it often feels to work for an institution like the church in 2019. Trends so much larger than myself make my prayers and pastoral work feel meaningless. I’ve been feeling this way about my denomination, the RCA, recently. Each week in our church, we say some version of this refrain: When the person of Jesus Christ is at the center of our lives and our worship, there is space for loving one another in disagreement.
Distrust and/or disuse make 2019 a difficult time for any institution. The church is up against both. As one of the oldest and most entrenched institutions in a world suspicious of its work, it’s important to ask whether we ought to shed some of our institutional identity.
The church’s musical imagination is limited by the vocabulary we use: traditional, contemporary, praise and worship, hymns, old, new.
The statistical decline in the American church is an ever-present anxiety. Each time there is new research published about the church in America it gives us new figures to share ominously from the pulpit while we admonish a hastened and hasty discipleship.
In a couple of hundred years when students in seminary study the period of time from 1950-2100, what names will be important? What movements will define this era?