It was the spring of 1988. We had rounded the corner of the liturgical year again, and although I'd preached Easter sermons many times, I was feeling relieved that I was not preaching the Easter service that year. Senior minister Thomas Allsop would preach to the throngs of parishioners and visitors at historic Beechgrove Church of Aberdeen, Scotland.
In a recent interview for the Century, African Methodist Episcopal bishop Vashti McKenzie spoke to Joan Harrell about her use of social media in ministry as well as her vision for a church focused on social justice. You can hear Harrell’s complete interview with McKenzie on her podcast, Empowering Voices.
I remember a film about Doubting Thomas that I saw in Sunday school as a girl. It was one of a series that our church showed us: the Bible story was read while a sequence of tableaux ran on the screen—it was not a motion picture, really, but more like a slide show. The actors were all attractive people with earnest expressions, and their faces stayed on the screen for a long time while the text was read. Sometimes the camera would zoom in, so that we could get a really good, long look at a particularly earnest expression.
I think I would find it all a bit too much if I were to view it today. But this was a long time ago.
What do young people look for in church? In research done in 250 congregations among people ages 15–29, respondents repeatedly said they were looking for congregations that were “welcoming, accepting, belonging, authentic, hospitable, and caring.” The researchers began to call this set of concerns the “warmth cluster.” Worship bands and ministry programs are not a priority, nor is busyness. Even “niceness” doesn’t work with young people. What they apparently seek at church is a sense of family, which calls for intergenerational relationships (Washington Post, September 6).