Sunday, June 24, 2007

post on 'post'


I've been asked a couple of times (most recently by More Cows than People) to explain in more detail the term "post-Presbyterian" which appears in my tagline. Fair question!

To explain, I'll delve into a bit of personal history. My family and I attended the small, local Presbyterian church for about 13-14 years. Not one to be a slacker, I served during that time variously as Sunday School teacher, deacon, co-leader of youth group, newsletter editor, member of various committees, elder, clerk of session, etc. etc.

Our numbers gradually dwindled over the years (hmm...looking at my list of roles, now I gotta wonder if I was responsible for driving people away!!!) Anyway, I was part of a 'task force' to study the declining numbers issue and make recommendations. Long story short, the congregation enthusiastically accepted the need to "embrace change". A pastor was called to help us become a more culturally relevant, authentic faith community. This pastor totally fit the bill -- she was (is) awesome!

However, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum (er... sanctuary). In spite of what the congregation said (and in spite of considering themselves to be very progressive), they were totally resistant to change -- even to the smallest things (such as occasional use of CD during the service instead of piano)! It became apparent that the congregation really wished to remain status quo -- which just didn't work for me. So our pastor is now in Seattle and we (and another family) are dechurched.

Thus I decided to use the term "post-Presbyterian". It is really a "take" on the term "postmodern". Just as being postmodern means "after or in reaction to what is modern" (thank you, answers.com), my "post-Presbyterianism" is after or in reaction to my years as a Presbyterian.

I don't know what's next ... so for now I'm just in transition time.

13 comments:

more cows than people said...

Barbara, thank you for responding so fully and so promptly to a query from a new reader. I'm so sorry for the disappointing experience you had with your congregation; I'm sure they grieve your loss and I hope that you were able to articulate to them why you were leaving, perhaps thereby planting seeds that might later grow. I pray that you will find a faith community, soon, that is open to the movement of the Spirit and where you can continue to share your gifts and grow in faith. Thank you for all your years of faithful leadership in a congregation in our denomination, and I hope we haven't lost you completely! Blessings, Barbara.

Serena said...

I wish those remaining people at least grieved your loss ... I sure do! And, I really wish you could be part of my new congregation with me! Love ya lots.

Barbara B. said...

Thank you, More Cows and Serena, for your very nice comments. :)

Diane said...

Barbara, thank you for your thoughts and sharing your experience. Sadly, it's more common, I think, than not. The first woman pastor at my home church (before I became a pastor) came in with instructions that the church was progressive and wanted contemporary liturgy, etc. It's complicated (it always is) but the church reallly turned on her when she actualy started doing what they said they wanted. Sadly, there are a number of de-churched people from that experience.

Soooo. I decided to become a pastor anyway.

You are a gift.. and I'm sure your congregation misses you. I hope you find a place where you can follow the Spirit's lead...

more cows than people said...

I was thinking about this some more, and I'm curious what methods your committee used to determine why participation had declined and what could be done to address this. if you're willing to share, i'm eager to hear. sometime... thanks.

Jan said...

Barbara, how hard that is to help facilitate possibilities for change and have those rejected. I have a friend at a Presbyterian church here in south Texas who is being asked to help find a new pastor in a similar situation. In contrast, I left the Methodist Church that nurtured me for 11+ years to return to a more liberal and seeking Episcopal Church. The Methodist Church is now in a program for the "transforming church", but I feel pessimistic about changes occurring with the people who have stayed in that church.

Transitions are times of waiting on the Lord--hoping you can stay with the uncertainty.

Serena said...

Yeah, I feel really blessed to be with an inclusive, missional, authentic community (which happens to be Methodist)... and looking forward to continuing our inclusive ministry with our new pastor (see her sermon here

Serena said...

okay,I'm trying link again
here

Barbara B. said...

Diane and Jan, thank you for your supportive comments! Serena, thanks for the link!

More Cows,
It was a long process... but one of the first things the 'task force' did was to "take the pulse" of the people currently attending the church. A detailed survey was designed basically asking people (anonymously) what they were happy with, what they had concerns about, what they would like to see happen in the future, etc. (There was a very high percentage of folks who participated.) Those surveys were then analyzed by the task force to identify perceived strengths, weaknesses, etc. In addition, people who had left the church were contacted and asked about their experiences (including reasons why they had left). There was also really good participation with that.

The Presbyterian Church in Canada had done a lot of work on church growth and lots of their materials (in addition to PC(USA) resources) were used by the task force in looking for ideas/ways to move into the future.

The task force presented their report and recommendations to Session; from there it went to the congregation...

more cows than people said...

thanks, barbara. our session is preparing to organize an every member visit campaign that has nothing to do with stewardship. they want to touch base with everybody, those active and those inactive in church, and find out what's working for them, what's not. they're meeting about this tomorrow. i may bring your experiences in. i suppose i should check out the Presby church of Canada stuff too! this is their project though, so... maybe I should just e-mail this to leaders. I'm not sure. Thanks for sharing, though.

Serena said...

Thanks Barb. I think the missing ingredient in the process is that your (previous) pastor didn't lead a theological process to determine your identity; and when I tried, as you know, there was much resistance and refusal to go there. The most important ingredient missing was an understanding of who they are and to whom they belong ... and "call" to be disciples of Christ. (in my humble opinion)

And, the fact that there were only 40 people remaining who were living in fear of losing any more people and, especially of losing the building they built with their own hands, didn't help.

I am so blessed to be where I am now where, fortunately, that has happened(not without great discomfort and loss .. the vine was trimmed, and as a result lots of new growth is now happening.) Long before the theological identity piece they had added screens and use of technology in worship. Their pastor of 16 years led them deeper and deeper into discipleship.

My prayer is that all churches would pray the prayer for The Church in Transition, which you can read here

Serena said...

p.s. I should have said "previous pastor(s), if they tried, were unsuccessful ..." and that you and the other family who left did get it, and I'm so sorry I wasn't able to help you lead the church into the present and toward the future.

Barbara B. said...

Serena, thanks for adding your comments!! My answer really just addressed what the 'task force' had done at the time. There were VERY important things which SHOULD have been done (but were NOT done!) prior to your arrival.