From Pastor Esposito
From Pastor Laura Esposito, Associate Pastor
There is an article in this month’s Lutheran titled, “Has the Spirit forgotten how to call young people?”. I was drawn to that article because I fit in that “young” bracket—you know, the age bracket pretty much missing from church. It got me thinking. That article coupled with the article “Get set for clergy retirement wave” about lots of pastors who are nearing or past retirement age getting ready to retire in the next few years, is enough to stir up fear inside people.
I feel that people may lose hope reading these articles thinking that there won’t be any pastors to pastor congregations or young people to continue those congregations. While it is true that many folks in their 20’s and 30’s are not active in congregations, this has rung true in the past as well. Some of you reading this probably did not attend church regularly as a young adult. Many come back after they are married and start having children. I grew up in a congregation that had Sunday School for all grades and a handful of kids in each grade. As I got older, though, the numbers started decreasing as the families faded away. I also attended school with many children who did not have any religious upbringing. Their parents said that they could choose what religion they wanted as they got older.
I am part of the generation that got trophies and awards for “just showing up”. It didn’t matter if I put my heart and soul into what I was doing or if I simply didn’t care, either way, I got the same trophy. In case you’re wondering, I threw my trophies out when I got to college. They were shiny things with no real meaning. The first of the day care kids, we spent more time with one another and an adult or two caring for a group of us than we did with our own parents. We tend to turn to each other for help and support instead of the seemingly absent adults who would probably shove a trophy at us for approaching them. Growing up I had conversations with my non-church friends about church and God. For many, church was another place we were dumped for a few hours on a Sunday under the care of other adults. For some of my closest friends and me, it was the place where we could see each other, talk, play, and pull pranks. We went to different elementary schools, but were in the same church activities and our parents were very involved in church so we logged many hours in one another’s company. Some of us are active in congregations while others don’t feel the church has anything relevant for them right now. Many people in that age bracket feel that church is a place where people do a whole lot of talking followed by a whole lot of inaction. One of my friends says that sounds like his work, so why deal with yet one more place that talks and never does. Yet those same friends plan on returning to church when they start having kids. That may sound familiar to some.
What will church be like when they come? If I follow what I feel are the emotions this edition of The Lutheran is attempting to stir up, then agh, it will be chaos. We are reassured that many pastors will remain working after they retire and fill in where needed. That’s great that folks are willing to do supply work—that is, filling in on a Sunday for congregations whose pastor is away or are in the process of calling a new pastor. The article ends by saying that the
majority of people in pulpits will be born after 1975, many of the older pastors will still be around committed to ministry. So it sounds as though people are being reassured that things won’t change too much.
Will that be a problem? I was 5 when the merger happened to create the ELCA. For others who may be wondering what this merger is, several smaller Lutheran denominations, The American Lutheran Church headquartered in Minneapolis, The Lutheran Church in America, in NYC and Philly, and The Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, who withdrew from the Missouri Synod. (If you are still confused or want to learn more text me, email, stop by, or call. When the merger happened I was so young, I didn’t even know I was Lutheran or what that meant. I knew that I was Christian who went to a church that had the name Lutheran in it along with another name (St. Paul), and a big word I didn’t understand. Christ was at the center. As I got older, I learned what Lutheran and Evangelical meant. In seminary classes with other Lutherans and folks from other denominations we talked and learned more about our faith as individuals, as part of a denomination, and as Christians. We acknowledged our differences while celebrating that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and realized that we can accomplish more working together and learning from one another than we can alone. When we put aside our differences and work for the betterment of all of God’s creation, people will notice.