Archive for ◊ July, 2013 ◊

• Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Written by Gretchen

I recently heard from the member of a church in transition, whose congregation had taken part in an assessment of their situation based on the following set of questions:

1) What is your church good at?
2) What is your church not good at?
3) If resources were not an issue what would you like your church to be good at?

These are questions that typically appear, in one form or another, in the discernment processes of congregations. In this case, church members did answer the questions. However, their answers were fairly “earthbound” and by and large, made no real connections with God. This, wisely, was of great concern to the church leader with whom I spoke.

As I looked over the questions, it became very clear to me why the answers had very little to do with God. Do you see it, too? Right! The questions have very little to do with God as well. If we expect the conclusions church members reach about the present and future to reflect God, then the questions we pose must reflect God in the first place. For example, the questions above may be transformed and enriched as follows:

1) When is your church best at glorifying God?
2) How do we fail at glorifying God?
3) If resources were not an issue, how do you envision your congregation
glorifying God more effectively?

I will admit that my version of these questions assumes a specific, clear cut theological understanding: that the purpose of the church is to glorify God in the world, but whether or not that is your congregation’s basic belief, the reframing of these queries in the language of faith, to involve God and get people to consider God in the process of discerning the church’s future, will result in responses that are faith-based and God-centered.

Truth be told, this is just one example of the ways in which the folks in our churches approach conversations about the future. We tend to get so mired in our very real and urgent concerns about the money and the building that we begin looking at the future from an almost completely human perspective. But the future of “The Church” and our own congregations are intimately connected with God and who we understand ourselves to be in relation to God. If we do not approach these very basic question about the church’s existence using a faith perspective, then nothing we do will reflect the guidance of God’s Spirit and our future will be built on a human foundation rather than on the cornerstone which is Jesus Christ.

• Sunday, July 07th, 2013

I was at church meeting the other day and, as an aside, one of the older women was lamenting that no one seems to get dressed up for church anymore.

I had thought the same thing myself during the previous Sunday service. Some of my fellow parishioners were in sweat pants; others in shorts and I saw one woman drinking a take-out coffee during the service (I know, that not a clothing issue, but it’s an example of how casual church has become). Sunday morning attire sometimes gives the impression that the person simply rolled out of bed to come to church.

I grew up in a period where everyone dressed up for church (women with hats and white gloves and men in suits). I know that’s a bygone era and I’m certainly not eager to go back to those days (my only hats are beach hats and my gloves are for gardening).

As we all know, laid back clothing is the norm throughout society these days. Office Casual Fridays and even Office Casual Everyday is the way it is. Travelers on planes and trains want to be comfortable for their trip and they dress down – way down.

This is our world – be comfortable no matter what you look like.

But the casualness of the clothing in church these days saddens me just a bit. No matter what your religion, going to church should honor your worship space. No, no – hats and gloves and suit not required. But leave the coffee cup outside, brush your hair, and save those dirty sweats and short shorts for yard work and the beach.

So I’ve decided to spruce up a bit more for church. Set my own little example. I’m going to wear something I might wear to lunch with friends, and I’ll put on earrings and even a little make up. I know God doesn’t care what I wear. And I know I’m welcome at church no matter what I have on. But I will feel inwardly better knowing that I am showing respect for my religion, my fellow parishioners and my God.

Note: I have recently published my second book :  E-Mail Your Weight Away • Diet Dialogues for Women (available through Amazon). Check out my website – and my blogs at