Town Common

Let’s be honest . . . People don’t need church anymore.  At least they don’t think so.

There was a time when church was a gathering place on a Sunday morning, a place to meet others and network, a place to be healed, a place to turn to when you needed help, a place to learn. You wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. In fact, in early U.S. history the church steeple had a prominent place in what was the most visited area in towns and cities – the town common. Alongside of the general store, bars and restaurants and occasional doctor and attorney offices, the church claimed real estate that said “We matter to you. You need us. We need to come together.”

Not so much today.

Want to hear a sermon or learn more about issues of faith? Google it.

Want to hear inspiring Christian music? YouTube.

Want to network with others? Facebook.

Need financial help to get you through tough times? GoFundMe.

Want to join others to share in a common interest? Sports leagues and clubs.

What can the church really offer when each of us has so many options for things we used to have to come to church for, when even taking Communion can be done online? Isn’t “church” so last century?

Let me offer two ideas. They’re about community and mystery.

At Ascension we call ourselves “a caring people.” Inherent in that claim is that Ascension is where people tackle both the wonderful and the ugly stuff of life together. “No person left behind.” “We’re all in this together.” That kind of stuff. That’s what we’ve done at Ascension for more than 70 years. We’ve helped one another through financial setbacks, deaths of loved ones, illnesses, parenting and grandparenting. And we’ve done it face-to-face in the trenches together. Like a church on the town common. That’s community. I’ve been blessed by that. Chances are that you have, too.

Last time I Googled “Help me” the only response I got was a link to an old Joni Mitchell song.

We’ve also engaged together in the mystery that is God. Even on our best days, we encounter God and realize that we still have more questions than answers about who he is, his plans for us and even how deeply he really loves us. We soon realize that everyone has questions about God and his plans. Church provides us with a community to grapple with the big questions of life and faith. Although a lot of the mystery remains, we learn to grow comfortable in it and even engage more deeply with this mysterious God. We learn to trust him even though we can’t answer all of the questions. In fact, accepting the mystery of God is part of the fun, especially when it’s part of our weekly worship experience.

Some say the church is dying. But some things are worth saving.

© Ed Klodt, 2019 (Views from the Pews is written by Ed Klodt. He and his family are longtime members of Ascension. Ed earned his Master’s Degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, has served as an interim pastor and has been a longtime lay minister at Ascension.)

The Grove

“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.” – Rudyard Kipling

The world’s largest organism is found in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. It’s an aspen grove called the Pando, Latin for “I spread.” It has one massive root system spread over 106 acres. It’s made up of 47,000 tree trunks, and it weighs more than 13 million pounds. While individual trees in the Pando are as old as 130 years, this community of aspens goes back at least 80,000 years.

Life isn’t all sunshine and chlorophyll for the trees in the Pando. They grow where avalanches and landslides, heat and freeze endanger them. A solitary aspen wouldn’t survive. Wildfires also provide risk. But it turns out the grove requires occasional fires to keep pine trees from invading this ancient community. When an individual tree dies, another one grows in its place.

And, all the while, the Pando keeps flourishing.

I could have been describing the Christian Church, couldn’t I? Except for the “flourishing” part. While the Church continues to grow south of the equator and in parts of Asia, not so in the U.S. and Europe)

As Christians we are 2.18 billion strong. We are rooted through Christ in the Church. We need each other. Our history spans millennia. We’ve survived false prophets and persecution. In fact, hardship only causes our community to grow, often dramatically. Our strength comes from individuals united in love for our Lord, the world and for one another. We gain strength from our Creator and from each other.

That’s how Paul can so boldly declare, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free . . . Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:12, 13, 27).

The law of the jungle proclaims survival of the fittest and we’re all on our own. The rule of the grove is that we’re all in this together and that we need each other.

Some say the church is dying. But some things are worth saving.

© Ed Klodt, 2019

(Views from the Pews is written by Ed Klodt. He and his family are longtime members of Ascension. Ed earned his Master’s Degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, has served as an interim pastor and has been a longtime lay minister at Ascension.)