No one knows more clearly or more uncomfortably the tensions of life lived between the gospel and economic necessity than a parish clergyperson whose text for the day is “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink . . . look at the birds of the air . . .
I began my ministry as a “new church development” pastor in a small town in northwest Indiana. The new congregation grew out of an older nondenominational church. When the time came to claim a name for our new adventure, we put together, in fine Presbyterian style, a small committee to study the matter and bring recommendations to the congregation.
At the Christian Century lecture in September, about 200 people gathered for a festive evening to meet author Kathleen Norris. Her topic that evening was not exactly festive, however. She spoke personally, thoughtfully and deliberately about sloth and its spiritual expression, acedia (see her article in this issue).
The church I serve is located in the midst of one of the busiest retail merchandizing areas in the country. Our closest neighbors are Bloomingdale’s, Marshall Field and Lord & Taylor. So I have the opportunity to observe firsthand how the stores and the city prepare for Christmas.
When I was a youngster my parents always took me to community Thanksgiving services. I was an unwilling and unhappy participant. I didn’t much like them: there weren’t many people there, I didn’t know most of those who were, and I surely didn’t care for the preaching. “Why do we have to attend these things every year?” My mother answered, “Because of the hymns. They’re the best in the book.”
By one estimate 7,000 churches close down each year in the United States. A 2012 study predicted that 20 percent of the churches in Philadelphia would close within ten years. Many of these churches are architectural gems. Razing these buildings can be very expensive. A more satisfactory solution is to repurpose them, turning them into art and culture centers or housing units. The Mount Airy Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia is having 20 condominiums built on its property. The sanctuary will be leased back to the congregation for its continued use (Philadelphia Inquirer, August 4).