Many years ago, I served as the Rector of a small congregation in rural Wyoming (St. Andrew’s in Meeteetse).  Some time before I arrived, they had opened a thrift shop for the community (population around 500).  One woman had spearheaded the project.  Her family donated the building.  And she ran the program her way.

I got to thinking about this today because I read a blog post from my friend, Joe Duggan, where he said:

I have had an epiphany in my prayer today. I am no longer going to talk about “at risk congregations”. At risk of what? At risk of dying or closing? There is nothing to fear in the death of our congregations.

Why does he say this?  Because he believes in resurrection.

That got me thinking about the thrift shop.

That thrift shop had run effectively for years, filling a need in the community.  But the folks running the shop were getting older.  In fact, while I was there, they got old enough that they couldn’t keep it going without help from the younger women in the congregation – who were unwilling to sign on under the current format.

It’s not that they wanted the shop to close.  But they wanted a cleaner and brighter place to work in.  And they wanted their own say in how the shop was going to be run if they were going to work in it.  The founder was having none of it.

So the shop closed.

After a while, the younger women (by design) started fixing up the building.  They cleaned it up.  They put in new lights.  They put in better fixtures.  They made it a place they would be comfortable working in.

Then they created a board for the new thrift shop.  They invited to founder to be on the board, but not the chair.  They invited the one younger woman who had been part of the old operation to chair the board.  And they filled out the board with a third, younger woman.

Resurrection!

New life.  Bigger and better and busier than ever.

But the shop had to die before it could experience resurrection.

I am confident that God’s Church will survive.  I hope the Episcopal Church will survive.  But if it doesn’t, I really do believe in resurrection.

In most of our congregations, the faithful old guard is so busy trying to find spare parts to keep what they love and cherish going the way they like it, that there is really no place for new life to take root.  That’s a path to death.  And if we follow that path, we will need to die in order for God to bring new life through resurrection.

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