Many people look around at closing churches and other centers of faith with sadness. The reason for this trend changes depending on who you ask. People inside struggling faith communities often look to outsiders. Members can attribute their struggles to keep the doors open to those who don’t attend, the source for monetary scarcity and spiritual stagnation. Outsiders in turn look inside for a relevant reason or attraction to attend. I feel that attraction never comes because insiders are too busy preserving what they have. And too often what they fight to preserve does not attract people of our era.
With such a focus on preservation, new attendees can feel they don’t fit in. Or worse, that trend of preservation extends from worship to membership. And opportunities for growth are subliminally sabotaged. I don’t wish to convey preservation as a bad thing. Tradition is important. It reminds us of our histories. It is often rich with symbolism and meaning. All I propose is that communities of faith do not sacrifice presence for preservation. That they do not operate blindly to the realities of their parishioners. That they do not look so much inward that they are blind to the climate and needs of the world outside.
Yes, we are called to preserve traditions that give us identity. But I feel we are called in an even bigger way to be a light of divine love in the world. When our traditions keep us from people in the here and now, people that are hungry for spiritual interaction, then our preservation has gone too far. God’s people (all people) come before our man-made religion. Let’s put God’s creations first and work to be good stewards of them. With a balance of preservation and presence, churches can create something that people can’t resist. With presence, the doors will always be open to let God’s people in and divine light out.