Many years ago now, I mentored Education for Ministry Groups. Much of the material was adequate but forgettable. One thing stuck. In the Old Testament we took up the stories of Samuel and Saul. The people wanted a king and Samuel warned them not to give up the ancient ways. They persisted. With the rise of Saul, two issues were raised which have persisted, in one form or another, throughout the Judeo-Christian story:
- How can the fundamental character of an original religious experience be preserved when the conditions which gave birth to that experience are significantly altered?
- How can any religious community develop the institutional organization it needs to preserve its identity throughout the passage of time, and still remain open to God’s direct inspiration and guidance?
I have thought about these questions as I study and consider the way forward these days. What began 500 years ago is ending. The Modern Age has joined the Victorian as ages past. We face new conditions yet again. How many times have Christians face new conditions since that first generation after the resurrection? In three long generations the Roman Empire moved from persecutor to protector. The Good News of God in Christ became the good news for revitalizing Roman culture. Many times since this has happened. It is easy to deplore the age in which we find ourselves but that will give us no pass, no respite and not to choose is to choose.
I have no answer other than to say that God promised to lead us into all truth. That involves our attentive contemplation in the silences of our souls, I suspect. The way forward will be revealed. The way forward will involve narrow ways than broad and we will doubt the clarity we once thought we had. Faith is not knowing exactly where we are going but going anyway. JWS