An op-ed piece in the NYTimes today caught my imagination. Not because it was anything particularly new--it just seemed well-said. Or, perhaps, fit well into stuff that's been bouncing around in my head.
[David Brooks certainly doesn't tend to write political columns I agree with. But here he quotes Robert Wuthnow, so what the heck... ;)]
Brooks makes a case for a new stage in life--between adolescence and adulthood. In that fuzzy area we UM's call being a "young adult." Rather than writing it off as a period of aimlessness, he describes the intense "improvising" that tends to go on as young people look to make sense of a world that less-and-less fits into neat, easy boxes. He says this is good for knitting circles and bad for churches.
I agree that it's "bad" for churches in the sense that it makes it hard for young people to fit into the church in our current forms. (I mean, how do we count members if people are transient? Or unwilling to sign on for joining institutions that are homophobic, or that seem to be worried mostly about their own self-preservation?) But it seems like it could be incredible "good" for the church, if we can only figure out how work with this "odyssey."
On our best days, odyssey characteristics like "uncertainty, diversity, searching and tinkering" are exactly what our church life ought to be about. At least, they're what draws me into it. (They seem to me to be things that Jesus was all about--questions assumptions, daring to include the excluded, answering easy questions with stories, and always doing so with love.)
I haven't found the right metaphor--"tour guide" seems far too much like we in the church should have things figured out. But perhaps the church can be like optional side excursions--helping give ways to deepen the experience of the questions, exploration and engagement. Or like a community journal, providing a context in which folks can reflect on odyssey-ing. Or like time on the tour bus for building community with others.
So many possibilities.