The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
October 10, 2021
Business text books are replete with stories about companies that did not change with the times and thus folded. Perhaps the most famous of these is the lesson of “the buggy whip.” Well into the late 19th century the manufacturing of horse-drawn carriages and all their accessories was big business. Many companies devoted themselves exclusively to the production of buggy-whips, a specific type of stick that a carriage driver would use to prod the horse. As the 20th century dawned, the advent of the automobile appeared on the horizon. The horseless carriage used a gas pedal, not a buggy whip to get it moving. Most of the buggy whip makers gambled that automobiles would be a passing fancy. Cars were too noisy and dangerous ever to catch on, and the world would always need high-quality buggy whips. Alas, they were wrong, and today very few buggy whip manufacturers are in business. The lesson, obviously, is to recognize change and adapt to it.
It’s no secret that the pandemic has produced an enormous change in society. Everything from the way we dress, gather, shop, travel, communicate, and work is different from the way it was as recently as early March of 2020. Now that the vaccines have arrived and will soon be available for children, we can anticipate living in a post-pandemic reality in the near future. But what will it be like? What will be the buggy whips that the new reality renders arcane? No one really knows but many are speculating.
As the church we ignore these conversations to our peril. I read recently that our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, preached a sermon about how we are currently in “a narthex moment.” As you likely know, the narthex is an architectural space in a church that most others simply call “a foyer.” It is an in-between space. If you’re in the narthex, you’ve left the outside world and you are about to enter the church. But right now we aren’t quite sure if church will be the same as it was. Will people ever again feel safe drinking from the common cup? Are hybrid meetings here to stay, or is digital presence a passing necessity of the pandemic? What about nursery care during worship services? This fall we have not had a single taker of our professionally staffed nursery, so beginning this week we have made a change that you can read about below. The change will help us direct our limited resources to other areas of children’s ministry. Is it the right move?
I have no easy answers to these questions, but I do have great confidence in you, the people of Grace Church. Over the past nineteen months we have adapted and risked and largely held together as a parish family. God has a new reality in store for us, and I am looking forward to living into it.
See you in church.
The Rev. J. Donald Waring