Reflections from Pastoral Intern Mary Beenken - A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of joining three former interns on a panel for our most recent Theology on Tap. The subject was 'changes in the church' and our task was to provide perspectives on how these changes were talked about and handled while we were in seminary—and whether or not that measures up to how we experience the church now that we're all out in "the real world."
It is true; the church is changing before our very eyes. Some scholars think that this is simply a 500-year pattern in Christianity, which the church will weather and even benefit from—and that is what I tend to believe most days too.
However, other observers have dubbed these changes "the death of the church." And sometimes (usually at night, when it's rainy and I'm tired and there's nothing good on Net ix) I fall into wondering about that instead: Are we dying? Is there a future for church as I know it? And if not—well, am I ok with it?
I started seminary the year after my chosen school had experienced a major financial crisis, and the fallout was just beginning: the curriculum changed, the campus community moved steadily off-campus, buildings were sold, faculty left. I suspect that the experience was even more painful for the other three panelists, who were at seminary in the midst of that situation. All of us, however, witnessed the adoption of a regular line from the seminary leadership: "We are a resurrection people."
It is a hopeful statement that reminds us that God will not simply abandon us to death—and it could be applied to the church as a whole, not just the seminary system. But in truth, I usually interpreted it instead as a coded way of saying "We'll make it through this. We just have to adjust." I often forget that resurrection actually requires a death first. If we really believe we are "resurrection people," we must acknowledge that we have to die—like, all the way—before resurrection can actually happen. And that's what keeps me up on those rainy, tired, Netflix-barren nights.
But perhaps that doesn't have to be the case. Perhaps resurrection can occur in the midst of life—after all, we also believe that God is always creating all things anew. Maybe that is the most important thing to remember in the end—that God continues to create and resurrect and take care of us all. God is not going anywhere, so there will always be a future for God's people. What it might look like is another question— but I think I can be ok with it all the same. We are a resurrection people, after all.