Holy Asides
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May 23, 2014, 12:00 AM

Reflections from the Twin Cities

This past week I have been in Minneapolis at the Festival of Homiletics. Homiletics is the fancy word for giving sermons; so this was a conference about preaching for preachers. I know, I have already lost half of you to sheer boredom, but there was actually quite a bit that was helpful, useful, or at the very least thought provoking. Among the highlights was the encouragement to not deny death, because it is in death we find our hope; that we can not earn blessings, but we can certainly screw them up; that we as the Church are called to be a missional community—and several other things I need to (a) ponder and let sink in and/or (b) refrain from telling you, so I can claim as my own idea later. 


But there is one idea that I wanted to focus on, spoken by Lillian Daniels that was not new to me, but was certainly reinforced. This is the idea of the “nones.” This is not misspelled, as I am not speaking of the devout women dressed in habits, who reside in convents; rather those who profess no religious affiliation. This group checks the box “none” next to religion/denomination. They are the dechurched and the unchurched. They have left the church for doctrinal or personal reasons; or they have never been a part of church at all. The most interesting aspect about the “none” is in how they are perceived. Because there are two major responses. The first is to bemoan the fact that our nation isn’t what it once was. Prayer is not in school; religious primers are not teaching children to read; soccer games and little league activities occur on Sundays; and people do not need to be a member of a church in order for their cultural standing to be enhanced. The second reaction is to rejoice (at least slightly) that those who come to church actually come because they want to be there. There is no cultural pressure to come to church, and yet they have chosen to be here anyway. 


This creates a whole new model of preaching, teaching, and communication. More than that it involves refraining from answering questions no one cares about or is asking anyway. The visitors, especially those without church affiliation, do not care about the National Church, the Diocese, the reasons we sing the mass, sing hymns, sing praise songs, use incense, celebrate the Eucharist, go to coffee hour, the intricacies of prayers of the people, acolytes, LEM’s, ushers or VPOD’s (that’s Vestry Person of the Day, which even I never heard of till arriving at St. Joseph’s.) These people want to know Jesus; they want to know that knowing Jesus can transform their lives—bring them peace, joy, hope, and meaning; they want to belong to a community that loves, cares and supports them. They do not care about the politics of the parish, in whose name the Library was founded, or the minutes of the last Vestry meeting. The challenge for us as a parish, and me as the preacher/rector, is to help support and meet the needs of those in our parish. To not overwhelm them by answering questions they are not asking, nor care about, but rather to listen with open ears and answer the questions about Jesus they do have, about faith they struggle with, and walk closely with those who are seeking—that we may be an encouragement for the good news of Jesus in their lives.

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