New England Synod Bishop Jim Hazelwood has spent time listening to the “spiritual but not religious” people who profess no religious affiliation. Otherwise known as the “nones,” these people are often outside the circles of many church leaders. So Hazelwood brought a panel of “nones” to the Synod Assembly this year. From his listening, Hazelwood says these (often) younger people are asking different questions than Lutheran theology usually tries to answer. He writes:
I’m hearing a desire for:
1) Safe, non-judgemental places for people to explore the deeper questions of life, faith, God.
2) The great suspicion of rules, yet the hunger for relationships raises the possibility that people are seeking an authentic community.
3) I also sense a desire for people to clarify their purpose in life. What gives life meaning? How is God connected to that question?
How does your church address these questions? What might you do to engage people of no religious affiliation more deeply?
Image Matt Stiles/NPR. Source: Gallup
The postmodern time is one in which people are skeptical of authority and see themselves as having a global identity, Pastor Jay Gamelin told the 2013 Synod Assembly. We now also live in ambiguous times where there is a tension between reason and mystery, he said.
“Some of the most faithful people I know are physicists, said Gamelin, “because they get what it means to live in theory rather than truth.”
He said what begins to show up and come together in postmodernism is the character of Christ. We don’t just talk about the words Jesus said, book look at how he lived his life. We are actually watching Jesus. Read more
In his second Assembly presentation, Jay Gamelin talked about his time in campus ministry at Ohio State University. When he arrived he could tell the Lutheran Campus Center had an identity crisis just by its many names on the sign. He decided to create a “gray space” in which he and the students could explore their struggles. The first year they studied the story of Jacob and for eight weeks put themselves into the story and wrestled with God. They explored what it would mean to not only wrestle with God, but leave limping like Jacob.
“The community eventually changed its name to Jacob’s Porch — because we wrestle with God and… because it’s a liminal space that faces outward,” said Gamelin. Read more
In the Huffington Post, Derek Penwell writes that many young adults don’t want the “treasures” that their parents/grandparents have been accumulating for them. The trend applies to the church as well, he says. He writes that “churches with massive overhead invested in things like church buildings, denominational infrastructures, functional church organizational models…are awakening to the fact that the generations that are supposed to be taking the institutional baton are showing very little interest in grabbing for it.” Read more
Feeling disoriented by changes in church and culture? You’re not alone, as Bishop Burkat told a recent gathering of congregation council leaders. A “Great Emergence” is both opening new opportunities for Christianity and challenging the institutions formed in the last 500 years, she said. It’s part of a pattern of moving from orientation through disorientation to reorientation that the church has experienced every half-millennium. The shifts are real, and present opportunities for congregations and not reason to panic, said Bob Fisher, assistant to the bishop. Read more