The first part of this blog contained a case study that was developed for the Leadership for Church Redevelopment workshop led by the Rev. Professor Michael J. Christensen. In class, which was enriched with two episcopal deacons, two lay members of the first united Methodist church and a Nazarene Pastor we explored each other’s case studies. There was no perfect or easy answer. Church Redevelopment can be hard work. One possible response that we touched on stayed with me all week – find a way to let the legacy live. It seems so simple but its effect can be extremely powerful. Increasingly often we cannot maintain what has gone before, we must adapt to changing contexts and situations that we find ourselves in, we will run into resistance to change but change does not have to mean abandoning the past. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater is rarely a wise thing to do.
Our textbook for the workshop was The New Parish – how neighborhood churches are transforming mission, discipleship and community. The book is the work of three pastors Paul Sparks, Tim Soeren’s and Dwight J. Friesen who came together to from different settings to build ‘a new parish’ that practiced faithful presence, that allowed itself to be reconfigured by worshiping beyond the gathering and discovered a new common of finding church in all of life. I found it interesting that they chose to describe their new church community – the new parish. In the book they acknowledge that the ancient word parish carries important memories of love, home and goodness, but that is not enough, it also carries memories of the old way. The new parish however celebrates the legacy of the old parish and allows it to grow into new life (The New Parish, 31).
Theologically the concept of letting the legacy live has a strong scriptural basis. Jesus was born a Jew (e.g. Luke 1:27, 32-34) and lived his life as a Jew (e.g. Luke 2:41, John 1:45). Never do we see Jesus trying to wipe out or erase the past. He wants us to be born again into something new. He wants us to live in a new way. Laws are replaced or modified but the past is never forgotten.
Taking the workshops in the Episcopal Church Center provides us with a great example of how we can let the legacy live. If you go downstairs to the Wolterstorff Hall and look towards the street, you see the Society of St. Paul Conference Room. The walls are beautifully adorned with stained glass that came from the SSP Conference and Retreat Center before it closed and the remaining members of the society moved to continue their ministry in San Diego. A great way to let a sacred legacy live and be a vibrant part of our future.
We also heard how a suggestion has been made for the collection of photographs of former rectors of St. Anne’s Oceanside to be moved from the current location in the church to the wall of the nearby Episcopal Cemetery Chapel when St. Anne’s is eventually sold. Another great way to let the legacy live.
We cannot stand still. We may have to make painful decisions at times. But letting the legacy live will not only preserve memories but also allow them to be part of the future.