I suspect that there is a lot of anxiety in my profession these days. OK that might be true on any day, but in this case I am thinking about how a lot of colleagues are quietly concerned about the drop in volunteers, attendance and the changing ecclesiastical landscape as detailed in the post The Young Choir to Whom We Are Preaching. (I write ‘ecclesiastical’ to prove I am back at seminary and can use bigger words. 🙂 )
So if it’s not clear, one reason I am wandering through the digital wilderness is to try and figure out if I can keep my parish ministry job. I’m pretty sure I can, which is good, because I like it, it supports me and my children and I think I am pretty good at it.
Last year, demographer David Foot (Boom, Bust and Echo) was the Canadian Unitarian Council theme speaker at the Annual Conference and Meeting. He looked at that still nice and large baby boom bulge. Whether he said this or not exactly does not matter, but one thing I remember stuck…my ‘peeps’ are still with us and will be for some time to come. There is no need to panic that churches and ministry will disappear in the next 20 minutes. Whew. Still employed for now.
My concern is tied to the idea that the digital world has a lot of ‘free’ in it and a pretty low tradition of commitment or financial contribution. To put it another way, this blog and whatever wisdom I post on Facebook and church websites and elsewhere comes to you courtesy of the good people at the Unitarian Church of Edmonton who employ me…You should thank them.
Well, we still haven’t addressed that issue in class, though our teacher Phillip Lund promises that we will, but it’s the elephant in the room, well, my elephant.
But the job of ministry is changing. Phillip Clayton is a theologian addressing the issue in Theology and the Church After Google. He paints a concise of image of how ministry is changing:
“The New Christian leader is a host, not an authority who dispenses settled truths, wise words, and the sole path to salvation… Above all, they remind me of a great hostess. She makes guests comfortable; she anticipates their needs. She matches folks up and gets the conversations started, though she doesn’t need to place herself into the middle of each one. She leads by example, often by establishing an atmosphere or an ethos that fosters deep sharing. And, at her best, she transforms the lives of those she hosts. I cannot think of a better model of leadership in the church after Google.”
Clayton says a lot of other good things, too, and I commend the entire article to you.
So, to clergy and laity alike, are you feeling anxious about the digital age? Does Clayton’s shift from presenter minister to host minister trouble you? Excite you? Are you/we doing it already in some parts of Unitarian Practice?