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On Being Church - a blog

One thing always leads to another, and it usually starts with “wouldn’t it be cool if…?” In this case, my son Sam started it off while watching the summer show by Paperhand Puppet Intervention. “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had Paperhand puppets for our nativity play?” Before you knew it a grant was written, puppets were made and I was on the Arts Ministry leadership team. While planning the exhibits for 2017 we decided on an interfaith theme and I agreed to help lead the exhibit. In the process I met an amazing young oud player named Abdulilah who played at the exhibit opening. I became involved with the amazing team supporting the Aboods, a Syrian family in Raleigh who continues to struggle with a new culture, new language and new rules. And best of all I found a friend in Samia Touati, a woman of endless energy and ideas. All of these things continue to lead to others, most recently, a jam session on my porch with Abdulilah, his friend Mohammed, Samia’s daughters and our own Tommy Goldsmith. The blending of cultures and music was pure joy. My son Sam said “this is one of the best nights of my life”.

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This Sunday – Palm Sunday – marks the beginning of Holy Week.

Holy is the week…
Holy, consecrated, belonging to God…
We move from hosannas to horror
   with the predictable ease
       of those who know not what they do. –Ann Weems, Holy Week from Kneeling in Jerusalem

What is holy about the children who died in Syria on Tuesday? What is good about the fact that the church needs to offer temporary shelter to those who do not have a house or apartment to call home. Where is God in the dilemma, the disease, the aching depression? What is good about the crucifixion? What is holy about this week?

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Last week, Drew Rick-Miller shared research on the importance of adults in the church who invest in the lives of young people. Read the first part of this article here.

What else can we do in order to Grow Young at WRPC? Growing Young provides many ideas – and they don’t require us to exude hip-ness or invest huge sums of money or adopt a mega-church mentality. I encourage you to read these two pieces on the book for a quick summary (see here and here) of their findings. Here are some suggestions I would offer based on this book, Sticky Faith, the National Study of Youth and Religion, and other resources I have read:

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We have all seen the data. Religious ‘nones’ are the fastest growing religious demographic in the US. Every major denomination is in decline, none quite so bad as mainline Protestants. And the numbers all skew young – a full 70% of the ‘nones’ were born after 1980. Add to that this less-known stat – 20% of the American population is between 18-29 years old, but only 10% of church attenders are in this demographic. Something happens between high school and young adulthood that drives away many young people. And the numbers are only getting worse as the percent of American adults who identify as Christian dropped nearly 8 points from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. This paints a pretty grim picture for the American church, one that is most dire for Catholics and Mainline Protestants.

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Early this week, I re-read Frank Dimmock’s most recent letter to the church. Frank’s father Rev. Albert Dimmock served as the pastor of West Raleigh from 1963-1976. Frank spent over 30 years as a PCUSA mission co-worker, working in public health throughout southern Africa. After a short stint with the PCUSA World Mission staff in Louisville, Kentucky, Frank has recently accepted a position with The Outreach Foundation, where he will continue his life-long work in southern Africa. In the personal note at the end of the letter, Frank writes, “I have many fond memories of growing up at WRPC…” .

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Why are the Psalms important?
As a church, we need the Word of God to seep into our bones. We need the support and comfort that the Psalms can bring. We need the continual reminder that God, rather than we humans, is the center of the universe. We need the words of the Psalms so that we might call on God and work with God, perhaps with fist in the air, to bring justice.

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