calendar May 12, 2015 in 2015 Assembly, Assembly, Bishop, Bishop messages

Bishop: Embrace Our Shifting Culture

Bishop Claire Burkat is excited about the sense of excitement and renewal she is hearing all around the synod.

She is excited about what we are building together and the response to the Forward Together in Faith campaign. She feels refreshed that we are becoming less attached to bricks and mortar and more to building relationships, connection, and innovative possibilities as we move into the future together.

“In baptism we belong before we believe,” so it is critical for the church to pay attention to relationships, the bishop said. This reality reflects a cultural shift in which people connect with Christians in service and conversation before coming to faith.

Building on the work of Diana Butler Bass in her book Christianity after Religion, Bishop Burkat invited the assembly to look within a kaleidoscope of relational activity that helps people to connect and build the relationships that are the new brick and mortar of the church.

And like a kaleidoscope, we can take the core elements of church – believing, belonging, and behavior – and shift them around to create a colorful mosaic of new shapes and motifs.

Contradicting popular assumptions of what the younger generations are seeking, the bishop quoted popular millennial bloggers who write about the authentic relationships and meaningful rituals that make our faith practices vital. From blogger Rachel Held Evans:

“You can get a cup of coffee with your friends anywhere, but church is the only place you can get ashes smudged on your forehead as a reminder of your mortality. You can be dazzled by a light show at a concert on any given weekend, but church is the only place that fills a sanctuary with candlelight and hymns on Christmas Eve. You can snag all sorts of free swag for brand loyalty online, but church is the only place where you are named a beloved child of God with a warm plunge into the water. You can share food with the hungry at any homeless shelter, but only the church teaches that a shared meal brings us into the very presence of God.”

In other words, the bishop said, what makes the faith real for us is when the biblical stories and theology are connected to the experiences that have already shaped us and are forming us right now.

She spoke about her support for entrepreneurial ministries, those that take risks, seek new frontiers and new partners.

The bishop closed with an invitation to trust God in times that shift and change as much as the tiny bits of glass in a kaleidoscope. And to trust the gifts God has given the church in you and in me which tumble together like those tiny bits of colored glass to create the beautiful mosaic that is God’s vision and God’s work in these times.

“It is a holy privilege, this calling of being the church. What more can we do? And how can we be? Where can we go? And don’t you want to go together?” the bishop said as she introduced a final quotation from Bishop Oscar Romero, the martyred bishop of El Salvador:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work…

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well…

We are prophets of a future not our own.

— Katherine Cartwright Knodel