No Turning Back

Red-tailed hawk

There's been a lot of talk (or should I say much has been written) about the need for church folk to let go of their idea of a "golden age" of their parish, during which all the people were good looking and all the children above average (to steal from Garrison Keillor).  First of all, because there wasn't a golden age, and second because even if there had been a golden age, it has little or nothing to do with today's reality.

I certainly hear that when folks talk about families today in church. It used to be that the mothers (and occasionally the fathers) were expected to teach the Sunday school classes for their children. That was just the way it was done.  But that expectation was built on the reality for many (and even then, certainly not all!) families where one parent worked outside the home and the other, pretty much always the mother, did not and therefore had time and perhaps the inclination to be more involved with volunteering at church (and school).  

Now, most of our families have two working parents. That's the new reality. And no amount of wishing that children didn't have to be in day care or that parents would decide to volunteer just as much as their parents did will change that. It makes me sad when I hear someone complaining about parents/children/families today (they are doing it wrong) and then wondering why there aren't more families in church. I'm not sure telling families they are doing it wrong is going to attract them to church, even if they were doing it wrong. 

But more importantly, are they doing it wrong, really? Life is different now than it was 50 years ago. Different doesn't mean wrong. Sometimes it's just different. Day care is not just for the mother who has no other choice. Day care is a legitimate and life-giving choice for many families. Having two parents who feel fulfilled in their careers is not a negative for most of the two-career families I know. Sure, there are compromises, but that's true in every family and every family configuration.

There's no turning back. So let's stop spinning wheels wishing things would go back to that shining but mythical golden age and be the church with the people who are the church just the way they are and not the way we wish they would be.


Bill Bynum said…
Like all of your essays, coherent, logical and convincing. The last paragraph applies to the church in general, not just to families. Hear, hear! Although I am a newbie Episcopalian, I am an oldie human being, and some of us old duffers really have trouble with change. That's when we need to re-read your last paragraph carefully.
Thanks, Bill. Most all of us have trouble with change and spend an awful lot of time trying to stay in denial about it. But it sure does hold us back, personally and corporately.
June Butler said…
Thank you, Penny. There was never a Golden Age. There is only ever this age, for better or for worse, and the best we can do is make our small (or large) contribution to make this age for better.
Thank you, Mimi. I don't know why this is so hard. I am pretty sure we all do it, in one area or another of our lives. And we don't know our own power and capacity for change and for making significant contributions without needing to make superhuman efforts.
June Butler said…
I do it, too. I look at pictures of my six grandchildren when they were younger and wish for those times again now that they are older and have started to scatter with two in college.