“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen
The numbers are a bit scary. Not just numbers related to Covid or Climate, but also numbers related to church. Even after including on-line views, our attendance is less than half what it was before the pandemic. With the loss of a diocesan subsidy for the Canon Pastor position, a loss of Mercy Hospital rental for the parking lot, and a decrease in pledging, our 2022 budget has more than $100,000 deficit. The good news is that the 2022 budget will be balanced by special gifts and a PPP related surplus from 2021. Both the gifts and PPP, however, were one-time events, which does not bode well for the future. There is an existential anxiety in our country, in our community, and even the beloved cathedral we call home.
On the other hand, newcomers are coming by the cathedral every week, we have a new and growing group of young adults, our pantries continue to thrive, a steady flow of people come through the cathedral during the week, from compline to noon zoom to world too beautiful to contemplative prayer, small groups are providing community and support, a strategic planning process and musician search process are beginning, our Public Policy Earth Action Team is taking action around climate change, and through Sacred Ground, Book Studies, and the Becoming Beloved Community Committee, more people have participated in anti-racism conversations than in any other topic in many years. On top of this, cathedral staff and volunteers continue to give of their time, talent, and treasure to insure that our mission continues and people experience the healing and loving presence of God in their lives.
All of the above is why 2022 is a year in which we need to reimagine and rebuild the church.
This is a time when the church is needed more than ever. We live in a world full of people who are spiritually hungry, looking for purpose and meaning, longing for a connection with God and a community of friends, and wanting to work with others to make a difference. Many of these people have no idea that St. Luke’s exists or that they could find a home here. Filled with negative stereotypes or experiences about church, they have no idea that St. Luke’s is LGBTQ+ friendly, empowers women, believes in science and reason, has both an open and progressive theology and ancient mystical and sacramental spirituality.
Interestingly, Portland has a large population of young adults, young families with children and people of color – precisely the people missing in our pews. They, however, won’t know that we are here unless we tell them. They won’t come unless we invite them and won’t know they are safe or welcome here unless we show them. While we are making great investments in technology and social media, the most effective way to bring people to church is actually to invite them ourselves, and bring them ourselves, sit with them, listen to their questions and stories and honestly and openly share our own. People aren’t looking for perfection. They are looking for authenticity. If we are willing to be real, admit our struggles, and speak to how we find God in the midst of it all, others will do so as well.
If we can do that, they will want to have what we have, and may even say yes, when we ask them to come to church – to be church – with us.