Seek and ye shall find… but you have to recongize the value of what’s found

So, where did I find another prayer from our Book of Common Prayer? On the website for The Beggars Table Church in Kansas.
See for yourself. Again, perception, I think. Does this Church see those who are taking up its very book (the Lex orandi, Lex credendi of us all), reading it, and finding, finding, finding nurture for that which their soul seeks – God. Some people are running to, some people are running from. The keepers of that book – my perception is that leadership is trying to run away from that book and its Tradition. My perception is that so many others not of our tradition, our heritage, are running to it. Finding, but how can they understand without someone telling them? The sense, the feel of the ancient. The connection to that which is sure, tried, and long surviving. That which holds the heritage repudiates it, while those who seek find the heritage in the very thing repudiated.
We live in a mixed-up world.

I’m honestly clueless, but I wonder…

I am going home to northern Ohio, tomorrow. I have a new nephew. I also have a meeting on Monday with my bishop on the way back to New York. I haven’t had a substantive talk with him in, what?, 4 years. Even then, he inherited me so when I use the word “substantive” it is by degree. I look forward to talking to him.
In the mean time, I’ve been looking at data from the Diocese just for the heck of it. One element of this endeavor is to check the websites of the parishes within the diocese (if they have a website). How can a church not have a website in this-day-in-age? I just don’t get it. It’s like not having a telephone. But, some don’t and I can only hope that their websites are in process!? Frankly, most of them are badly designed and executed, too (doesn’t have to be elaborate, but…). Ugh. What image is presented to the generations that find a church because of websites! What impression does this give of the parish? Anyway… another soapbox.
There are two economies and mentalities in the northern half of Ohio – the dying, heavy-industry, rust-belt economy/mentality and the prospering, high-tech, research economy/mentality. One is growing, one is continuing to decline. How one perceives the “reality” of Northern Ohio depends on within which sub-set one imbibes. The psycho-social and socio-economic “feel” that generally leads people in what they think and how they act can be very different. The way this leads organizations, like the Church, to perceive and conduct themselves is important to consider.
I don’t quite know how to say this, but I don’t really get the sense that there is much understanding (is that the right word? – perhaps “cognizance” perhaps “knowing”) of the distinctions of these two sub-sets of people or the socio-economic mentalities that are associated with the “worlds” of these two groups in Ohio. I don’t get a vibe for forward-looking, prosperous thinking in many communities or the diocese (and I don’t mean the change-change-change and reject the past at all costs way of thinking) This may be very unfair of me and may only prove my own naiveté or ignorance!
Two examples: First, a very large portion of the heavy industry in the northern half of Ohio is gone. A lot of other cooperate entities have gone south. This has been a terrible blow to the economy, the livelihoods of citizens, and their sense of self. The mentality of people has certainly changed. Probably about ten years ago or so, the university system was attempting to put forth a plan to leverage the research and high-tech segments of the economy and to increase access to higher-education (understanding that retraining and an educated workforce are essential to the “new economy”). A state legislator was absolutely opposed to putting any more money into higher-education because what the state needed to do was get jobs for the unemployed. He was convinced that the industries would come streaming back into Ohio because Ohio has an abundance of water, while the Southern or Western states don’t – that’s what the money should go towards. (There is some truth to this, of course, but if industries are going to move anywhere else at this point, the place will be oversees, not back to Ohio.) The mind-set of this individual did not see the growing, prosperous future that was already present in the economy or the importance of nurturing it. There are plenty of people with the same “declining” mind-set, and there are organizations that can be shown to have a very similar “collective mind-set.”
The second example can be found in Akron, OH. Akron up to about 12 yeas ago was the center of the tire and rubber industry. Most all the major rubber companies and their research centers were based in Akron, despite that most of the manufacturing had gone south. Within a span of around 5 years, all the major tire-rubber corporations save one left Akron (most were bought by foreign companies). All the white-collar and blue-collar jobs were gone. The corporate sponsors of the arts and social organizations were gone. A major part of the tax base, gone. This was a city in decline, obviously. When I left Akron almost six years ago, there were 2,000 high-tech start-up companies within the city-limits alone and all revolving around polymer (rubber) research. The young, motivated, educated individuals were streaming into the city to take up the new jobs. This city was prosperous and forward-looking, obviously. What do we see?
I think that too many people still see Northern Ohio from the perspective of decline, loss of jobs and industry, loss of the glory of what we once were (a mighty industrial center of the world with good paying blue-collar jobs, security, purpose). I think too much of government and too many organizations play to it. Too many people don’t perceive the reality of the other side.
As the Church, are we able to recognize and understand both “realities,” and then rightly discern how to minister properly to both? From which well will we imbibe? If we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves so narrowly focused that we lose true perspective.
Two mentalities and two realities. How easy is it not to see or understand the reality of the other side – to not want to?
This really isn’t about economics or social policy, but about perception and how that perception influences the way we conduct ourselves. It is about understanding of the “mind-set” of groups of people and being able to translate what we are and what we do so that those with that “mind-set” will be able to understand. I wonder if this might explain why the Church has such a difficult time attracting the generally younger people who are “prosperously” minded – the present Church and the way it “thinks” and “feels” just doesn’t resonate with them.
A telling picture of this can be seen in the websites of parishes, I think. The churches that do attract a lot of more “prosperously” minded (and younger) people are “well done” and “look the part.” Too many websites of parishes look as if they were created 10 years ago – a lifetime for website design and utilization (the iPhone to the Western Electric rotary-dial phone). Look at The Landing Place in Columbus, OH; hOME Oxford, England; Ecclesia Church in Houston; Xalt Church, Calgary, CA; Revolution Church , NYC; Jacob’s Well Church, Kansas City; Church of the Apostles, Seattle; St. Clement’s, Philadelphia. There are so many other good websites, but we all know the old-style, poorly done website. My own parishe’s website is not yet there, but we’re working on it.
The primary medium of information and searching these days is the Web. What impression does this primary source give of the place, of the parish? I have to honestly say that if I moved to another city and started looking for a parish to attend, my first impression of most of the websites for the parishes in the Diocese, well, I don’t think I would show up on a Sunday. They simply give the impression that the place isn’t going anywhere or doing anything that I might be interested it. It is judging a book-by-the-cover, I know. Frankly, if a place is hoppin’ it doesn’t matter what the website or building or anything looks like. People go because they perceive something worthwhile is going on, but the first impression is very important. This may not be fair or right, but it is the reality. It is becoming an increasing reality with more and more people.
What can be done? I don’t know. Something as simple as understanding the importance of perception and websites and the psyche of younger people or “prospering” people (which is different than the “wealthy”) might be a good place to start.