Thursday, May 07, 2015

The Sacraments and Sacra-Mentality

A friend of mine, Keith Anderson, published a blog post today reflecting on some of the response following Rachel Held Evans' new book and her entrance into the Episcopal church. Much has been made that she, a former evangelical, has found value in the sacraments (for her and some in the Episcopal church, they number seven: Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Confession, Ordination, Marriage, Extreme Unction (anointing and laying on hands for the sick),  ... for others they number only two, Baptism and Eucharist... but that is an old debate that need not be rehashed here.) Keith rightly points out that many mainline churches are "breathing deep sighs of relief, patting themselves on the back, and smiling in self-congratulation." 

Keith criticizes those who think if they just keep doing what they are doing, the young adults disaffected by the rock music, or coffee bars, or light shows, or anything else that tries to make church "cool" will find their way back to their pews with the liturgical tradition that has remained largely unchanged for decades. Keith writes: 
Judging from the comments I’ve seen in the days since Held Evans’s article was posted, I’m afraid that her assertion has had the unintended consequence of reinforcing the tendency toward inertia exhibited by some Mainline ministry leaders. “See, we’re fine. We don’t need to change,” I can hear them saying. “We can keep doing what we’re doing. Let’s put on some coffee, order some new communion wafers, and wait for the young evangelicals to come pouring in.”
Good luck with that.
Such interpretations of Held Evans’s post are problematic because they reinforce our maddening fixation on matters of worship, to the detriment of extending ministry beyond our church buildings, deepening faith formation, serving the poor, and helping our neighbors.