I was browsing back through my blog history, checking to see if there were posts that I hadn't posted yet, sitting in the draft box. There were. I deleted some but this one, written one year and two days ago rang true again.
November 2, 2009
Why do we do the things we do? That's been rumbling through my head lately. Most of it has been focused on the church, because that's where most of my time is spent. As I observe our activities, our rituals, I wonder, why do we do the things we do?
A few years ago, I began to really dislike the word tradition. Tradition was labeled to anything that the church had done once that was mildly successful and likely to be done again. It got me thinking, what makes something tradition? For some, I learned, it all came down to what they saw as important and worth hanging onto. That was tradition. Something that they wanted to change became outdated and old. Not the same thing as tradition.
The word tradition comes up regularly in our staff meetings. I cringe every time I hear it, much the same way that those new to a ministry setting cringes when they hear those fateful words "we've always done it this way." *Sigh*
We human beings like rituals. We like traditions. We do things the same way because it's comforting, familiar, safe. There are moments when we get caught up in safety and comfort and miss the something more that's out there.
Reading the Old Testament and the Gospels it stands out to me that when we get uber comfortable with our rituals, our routines, our traditions, we get into trouble. We miss the other that is out there. The other can be things that are different, that change what we have known and mess with our pre-conceived notions of what will be. Many times, in the midst of ritual or tradition that we do for God, we miss God.
Sundays ago during the worship service we read together a part of a creed that I remember reading most Communion Sundays growing up. I said it so many times that I can recall it almost word for word without needing help. It became something we did so often, that I missed reading the words, hearing the meaning behind them. It became a ritual. That particular ritual was phased out by the next Pastor, I'm sure with some people saying "but we've always done it this way" and new rituals were added...or not. As we read it together, this particular day, something took hold in me, something that said "this isn't just a ritual, these words have meaning, they have a purpose." In all my years of reading that creed, I had missed the other. I had missed the meaning and only saw a ritual. I had missed God.
Being a life-long church girl, it's been easy to do church, to focus on the rituals and the things we do for God and miss God along the way. I'm becoming more and more uncomfortable with that. My soul feels very unsettled, unsteady and lacking. How am I to encourage participation in church to youth and young adults when the I am having a hard time finding God in the church, in the rituals, in the tradition, in the ways "we've always done things"? I am tired of missing God in church. I want to find God again and if that means that some of the rituals, the things that we do for tradition sake have got to go away, then so be it.
As a staff we've been reading a book that speaks about what we do as a body of believers. The word "relevant" keeps popping up. The church universal is definitely struggling with relevance these days...maybe it's because we're a little stuck..."we've always done things this way". Pondering it all.