By Rosy Robson, a student at Union Presbyterian Seminary.
Lately it seems as if almost every statement made about the church in the news includes a statement of “the Church is dying.” Membership is low, budgets are being cut, churches are closing, the church is no longer relevant… The refrains are familiar, the pessimistic narrative prevails…Yet, I think there’s another side to this story. (I wouldn’t be in seminary if I thought otherwise, right?).
Over the past year, I have found myself increasingly interested in new church developments, and innovative, creative ministries. Take Beacon, for instance, a new worshipping community in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia whose faith identity centers on writing, painting, storytelling and being good neighbors in their community. Or what about the Gayton Kirk Presbyterian Church and their love for learning and building relationships through worship services and an active community center offering classes every day of the week? These are just two of the ministries that are offering a new counter-narrative, as they step out of the box and live out God’s call in different ways specific to their communities.
Refreshed and invigorated by these and other stories, I’m setting out on a summer-long journey to hear more stories. I’m meeting faith leaders and ministries up and down the east coast, asking questions such as:
- How are churches/ministries meeting increased challenges in terms of decreased levels of religiosity, smaller budgets, and fewer people in attendance?
- What are churches/ministries doing that is energizing and life-giving
- How are churches/ministries in conversation with their community and specific contexts?
- How do these people and places respond to “the Church is dying” narrative? How are they offering a counter-narrative?
- How is the Church living into a new chapter of her history?
- How is the Good News being shared with the world?
I’ll be blogging about these visits here throughout the summer. Hopefully, the stories I hear and share will be a glimmer of hope for the Church, for anxious seminarians, for anyone asking similar questions or sharing concerns for the future of the Church. So, I hope you’ll check back here a few times this summer. And if you have suggestions on who I should talk to, or where I should visit, send them my way.
P.S. The first visit of the summer is to the Wild Goose Christian Community in Indian Valley, VA, a rural worshipping community nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. More on that visit coming soon…