Thinking About the Church of the Future

The Opening Doors to Discipleship organization asked our own Beth Hayes to reflect on a recent event she attended and its implications for the Christian Church. 

I had the distinct privilege of being invited to a dialogue experience between well-known theologian Phyllis Tickle and pastors and educators about the role of the church in the future and how culturalchange change is affecting the traditional way of doing Christian Education and spiritual formation in the emergent church. Tickle challenged all of us to rethink church culture as we minister and respond to folks outside the church.

It is a known fact that many persons in the under-35-group no longer trust the church as the place to seek meaning and purpose in life. Persons today who haven’t been brought up in the church or who aren’t familiar with it are not convinced of the church’s value. Some who were raised in the church have become disaffected. The church is not necessarily people’s choice for finding meaning and purpose in life, which the decline in attendance makes very apparent. The questions are: How do we connect with these people? Where do we go to meet them? The conversations that will happen as we make these connections will broaden our world view of how younger folk find meaning and purpose in their lives. What can they teach us? What can they gain from us? How will the internal culture of the church need to change? It was a fascinating experience to deal with these questions, not only with Tickle but other pastors and educators.

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Giving Thanks for a New Year – Reviewing the Old

How can it be that it is already 2013?! The new year is upon us, bringing with it renewed hope and optimism for the future. It feels like a reset, a second chance to make good on all that we neglected to do in 2012 or 2011 or 2010… you get the picture.

IMAG0741But what good is it for us to look forward without a brief look back at the year that was? My family and I recently traveled to Washington, DC for a quick visit prior to our Christmas holiday in Bethlehem, PA. At every stop, in every stately granite building, we were reminded of how the past informs the present and hopefully, enhances our future. I was struck especially by the inscription in the granite on the Constitution Avenue side of the National Archives, which houses our country’s most revered and significant documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

“The heritage of the past is the seed that brings forth the harvest of the future.” This quote is seen below a statue designed by James Earl Fraser, appropriately called “Heritage.” It depicts a young woman holding a child and a sheaf of wheat in her right hand, both of which symbolize growth and hope. In her left hand, she holds an urn containing the ashes of past generations. The quote itself is attributed to Wendell Phillips, a noted abolitionist and advocate for native Americans during the 19th century. (From

Indeed, Moravians understand this philosophy well, having been quite the obsessive record keepers over hundreds of years of history. They have long tracked the minutia of daily life while also taking the time to review notable events during the previous year (called Memorabilia). The following explanation appears on the Moravian Archives website, which describes the tradition and provides 10 years worth of Memorabilia:

In times past, it was a cherished tradition of the Moravian Church to read a Memorabilia of notable events at a closing service of a waning year. Not only did a Memorabilia remind a congregation of its own deeds and accomplishments during the passing year, but it also recalled the leading of the Savior as we sought to do his will.

In the Southern Province the first settlers in 1753 were prevented from holding a Memorabilia or Watchnight service, because “our cabin was very full” with visitors. Since then Bethabara and then Salem held Memorabilia services for more than two centuries until the final Salem Congregation Memorabilia was read on New Year’s Eve 1968.

In 2002 the Moravian Archives began compiling a Southern Province Memorabilia of notable events as a continuation of the 250th anniversary history, With Courage for the Future: The Story of the Moravian Church, Southern Province.

You will likely see parts of the 2012 Southern Province Memorabilia in your congregation’s newsletter or perhaps heard it during a Watchnight service. Here it appears in its entirety:

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