Two things: One, Thanks for all your prayers for the families of those affected by Monday's tragedy. I live in Northern Virginia and several families here have children at Tech who thankfully were not targets, but still feel the impact of what happened. It's very sobering; I used to work in higher-ed administration at a school of comparable size and I can't stop thinking about what I would have done if I wore the shoes of those administrators on that day. How horrible.
Second: Thanks for your prayers for my health. I'm still no closer to better, and typing remains a struggle for me although I'm getting better at typing one-handed. I have a orthopedist appointment on monday, and I'll keep you posted on what happens over at the Lounge.
On to the question for this week: You have leopards. They have spots.
What are some ways of introducing an activity or practice into one's "church culture" where it's not been before? For instance: My tiny rural church never had a narthex, so socializing tended to be done right in the sanctuary. We are expanding our building to include a new sanctuary and narthex area, and some members have expressed a desire—with which I tend to agree—to keep the loud socializing outside the sanctuary, and preserve a sense of quiet inside the sanctuary for worshippers who want to pray, meditate or read before the service. Are there creative ways to get people on board with this without offending too many of the loudly gregarious people?
This week, we welcome a new matriarch to this column: Singing Owl! She writes that even with a large entryway—rivaling the size of the sanctuary, she STILL has problems with people lingering, loitering, socializing (she used the word congregating, no pun intended), particularly after church. "I have had some success by enlisting the GENTLE help of the ushers, who are quietly finding ways to sort of funnel people towards the entry," she says. And there's been times she's needed to periodically remind people from the pulpit that the sanctuary needs to be a place where people can pray, meditate, and so on. "I did a bit of teaching on the place of sacred spaces and why it is good to have them," she writes. "In our denomination, prayer at the front is common, sometimes group prayer, and sometimes individuals. So I sometimes remind people at the beginning of the service that people at the conclusion may want to pray, and to please keep the sanctuary a place to meet with God." Keep the message about socializing in the narthex/entry positive and regular, and that can help.
Jan, who recently moved her coffee hour from the narthex to the parlor, notes that trying something out for a certain period—one month, for example—is a good approach to handling lots of situations: trying a new hymn, a new inclusion in the liturgy, a new way of sitting in worship, etc. "Do it for four weeks and then listen for comments," she writes. "While you'll never please everybody, we've found that the majority is often OK with changes. They just need to get used to it and alter their spiritual muscle memory."
Then there's that old joke: How many [insert denomination here]s does it take to change a light bulb?
[Horrified response]: Change??!!!?!?!
How about you? How do you help your parishioners adapt to a new practice?