"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Will new "country" Lutheran church fly here?

County Road 5 north of Morris has been striking for its placid air. It's the road that heads out of town where you find Cimaroc Kennels (run by Dan Sayles). It wasn't that long ago, in the scheme of things, that the road got paved. As a dirt road it wasn't that inviting.
It's more inviting now for bicyclists and "Sunday drivers." It also got the attention of a circle of spirituality-oriented people. In September a church building from a different location will be literally moved to along County Road 5 just outside of Morris. It will be quite an undertaking.
Surely there will be gawkers. (". . .and stop calling me Shirley.")
I doubt that the basic complexion of County Road 5 will change much. The new church (which I've seen before) has a definite "country church" look. In this sense it will complement the surroundings. It remains to be seen, obviously, how many people the new church will attract. Will cars be streaming to and from the place on a regular basis? Will it find its "legs" or struggle in terms of getting support?
I wrote a couple of weeks ago that Morris needs a new church like it needs a hole in the head. Everyone is free to do what they want and spend money as they wish, or course. The quantity of existing churches in the Morris area seems not to be a problem. There are certainly open pews in the church where I attend. From what I hear it's not an isolated deficiency.
So the idea of a new church being planted just outside of Morris strikes me as kind of a "shot across the bow." It must represent a set of ideas that its promoters feel are not adequately represented by the existing churches. I gather that the new church is being promoted by what I would call Lutheran traditionalists.
The ELCA has been inching forward into the 21st Century and this creates issues. Social issues are at the contentious focal point. There is pressure to tweak gender reference language in church literature, and to open the door wider to the gay community.
The forces of modernity seem always to win in these things.
Now, I can't speak with authority on matters of religion or theology - please muffle your laughter here - but I do understand small town dynamics and human nature, I think. If a career in newspapering doesn't teach you about human nature, nothing will.
Anything that smacks of rebellion in a small town is risky, regardless of any irresistible logic that appears to be behind it. You're naive if you think you can be bold, step on toes and come out looking clean and virtuous. You'll be dirty and with baggage. Even if a cause succeeds, there will be bodies strewn along the way (figuratively speaking).
There was a traumatic controversy in this town in about 1988 that even I couldn't emerge unscathed from. And it seems the dirty hands can never be cleansed. It is my assessment that the Lutheran churches in Morris cannot withstand the siphoning off of an appreciable number of members. And more importantly, they cannot withstand the loss of the money that those souls would contribute.
I'll quote my friend Glen Helberg here again: "Money talks and bulls--t walks."
There has to be some significant money behind the moving of that church building to the "Hufford neighborhood" north of Morris. That money could do a lot of good going through established church channels. Instead it's targeted to what I would call this "rebellion," this rejection of the existing network of Lutheran churches.
The church I attend is making extraordinary pleas for money and I assume the people beyond those pleas aren't lying. I have joked in the past that there's kind of a "cry wolf" quality to these pleas. But right now I'll take them at their word.
I wasn't going to name the church but I'm a journalist and journalists don't feel comfortable suppressing information. My church is First Lutheran and it recently bid farewell to its top pastor. The No. 2 person, Ali Boomershine, has done what I feel is a terrific job since. Let's move her up the "depth chart."
These perceived forces of modernity in the ELCA aren't distracting or bothering me. Of course, I'm not Mr. Spirituality but I'm typical of many churchgoers.
I didn't attend church for most of my adult life because I considered church to be part of the "establishment" web of institutions that seemed to collectively sit on its hands during the Viet Nam War. It fell into "irrelevance" to use the parlance of my generation when young.
I'm slowly getting over that now. Suggestions of rebellion in a small town usually end up that way: suggestions. In the case of the new church, it appears from all indications that it's past the talking stage and it's really headed here.
If it succeeds it will have bad consequences for the existing ELCA churches. But we're all assuming that those existing churches will just sit back and take the adversity. Institutions are more fluid than that.
The existing churches will strive to make accommodations for the "traditionalists." They will put a welcome mat out for them. And they will have the advantage of being well established with their systems and infrastructure.
The new church will have to confront a whole list of things to be set up - logistics - some of which maybe haven't been anticipated yet. I had a conversation with one of these individuals and I asked if the new church had a website. He responded that he wasn't sure but indicated that, well, that was something that would have to be done. I did a basic Google search and found no evidence yet. So add this task to your list, guys.
Morris doesn't need more churches, it needs more industry. The ELCA is trying to keep pace with our contemporary wold. Efforts like this by the mainstream usually win out in the end.
And personally I'd like to see County Road 5 stay as untouched and pristine in its surroundings as possible.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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