Dear Siblings in Christ,
Our world seems to be a disposable one. Every time we turn around there is a new update, phone, software, or gizmo being released making the previous versions obsolete or irrelevant. Today’s younger generation is growing up with an ever-increasing expectation that whatever they have materially will soon be replaced by something better, faster, or more advanced.
It makes me wonder if there is a connection between this generation’s experience of the temporary and their fascination with the permanence of tattoos. That thought led me to recently contemplate how this younger generation experiences or appreciates the gift of longevity found in Emmanuel Episcopal Church in particular and Christianity in general.
The current young generation is not unique in its appreciation for nostalgia. However, it seems that with their world changing ever so quickly, they appear to be nostalgic for the past at a much younger age. The gap in time between their experiences and the fond memories of those experiences is growing shorter as their world changes at lightning speed. Furthermore, with pictures and videos being taken with cell phones at nearly every experienced moment, it’s both easier and more daunting for them to review and relive certain youthful experiences.
What does this have to do with Christianity and Emmanuel Episcopal Church? Lots!
The sense of permanence and stability we offer can be viewed by the young as either outdated or comforting. The ancient traditions we practice can become an experience of nostalgic comfort or old-fashioned fuddy-duddyness.
It is extremely important that before we try to convince a new generation that our longevity and stability is a gift to the world, that we believe it first! Hebrews 13:8 states: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” The fact that our Lord is unchanging, that his message of love is unchanging, and that the truth (the absolute, unequivocal truth) is unchanging should be a comfort and beacon of hope to an ever-changing world!
Does this mean that our Church should never change? Of course not! But what to change and what to retain is a matter of prayerful discernment. By virtue of the fact that the world is changing demands that on some level we change along with it to demonstrate the relevance of our message.
I’m asking everyone at Emmanuel to do a simple prayer exercise. Next time you’re at church for something, sneak away to the Parlor. Place your hands on one of the stones of the original church structure. Prayerfully consider the people who laid those stones 128 years ago….their generation, their culture, their hopes and dreams. Then thank God for those people. Then, shift your prayer to those who will come after us 128 years from now to worship here. Consider their generation, their culture, their hopes and dreams. Then thank God for those people.
In this season of gift-giving, let us be ever mindful of the gift that Emmanuel is to Rapid City and to the world. As we seek new opportunities to offer that gift to new recipients, let us be filled with the never-changing Spirit of God that is rooted in love, peace, and truth.
In Christ Jesus,
Fr. Chris Roussell