What is the future of the church?
I find that question to be particularly apt in the days following Easter. The disciples and followers of Christ must have asked themselves the same question two millenia ago. The faithful have asked themselves the same thing at many points - from persecution in Rome, through schisms and Reformations, to the discovery of new worlds, through multiple wars and clashes of faith, and in the face of skepticism and atheism.
One of the difficulties of answering the question is that the status quo is always so comfortable, and rabble rousers are so rarely welcome. At one point in my life, I was the executive director of a children's theatre company in which artistic criticism was not always welcome. There were volunteers and board members who simply wanted to say nothing but good things about every child and every show.
But that attitude is counter-productive. People eventually notice that the emperor isn't wearing any clothes. In the setting of a theatre or a church, they may not speak up to voice criticism, but they may simply stop volunteering, stop participating, stop attending. How can we continue to reach out?
Does the answer lie online? My little effort here is a bit of an experiment, and the Pope famously urged priests to join Facebook last year. CNN recently ran this story on a pastor whose sermons often reach the President. But the web can never supplant every aspect of church - especially the sense of community, voices raised together in song and prayer. So perhaps this is only one tool in a multi-pronged effort.
But as every theatre troupe knows, a group that is not growing is dying. So what do we do and where is our future? A good question to ponder this week, in historical context and for our own congregations.