As I urged us on in the quest for a faith home, it dawned on me that this experience of now looking beyond my denomination in a place I had never lived before was really new and different. We began to do what is commonly called "church-shopping." But before I talk about that and what came of it, I want to talk about this notion of mobility and consumerism as it applies to religious experience which just feels like the place to focus today. This Friday I will start Summer Greek at a seminary of the denomination I consider my home 19 years to the day after I started by first job with a lawfirm here in the county where we live. And today I am lay assistant with one of our two pastors away on vacation. And I know there is a Godspeed for me at the end of the service which feels like the beginnning of a long goodbye I will be saying to my church home-the end of the journey will lead me somewhere else.
A few years ago I read a book entitled A Generation of Seekers-the Spiritual Journeys of the Baby Boom Generation by Wade Clark Roof. It was published in the mid-90's and so it a little old now, but the information it imparts is not. Roof uses prototype characters to illustrate life stories of various boomers and the diversity of experience they depict. I led a Sunday school class with different people depicting the personalities and each week we had a couple players present their person in character and then we had Q & A and talked about whether we have met people like this, what their life view was and what is "religion" to this person. We had huge attendance and loads of comments and personal sharing by people.
What we learned and what the book shows is that geographic mobility ( I lived in 13 different places before here), greater numbers of people with higher education, social issues that arose have led to a much more pluralistic experience. Which had shifted the old model of church, family and government as the pillars of culture.
We also discovered that in our congregation less than half of the members were cradle Lutherans. And we talked about what brought us to this church in particular(as in the building, not the denomination). And as we have become consumers with too many choices, for many people, church is just one option for what someone will do on a given day. And the church someone attends may have very little to do with deep theological beliefs for some.
Finally we learned that not everyone intends to settle somewhere, they may just be passing through our area, or our church. They may just be seeking and we are not necessarily the end of their journey as they seek to define spirituality in their lives. We may be one of many things from which they will draw their beliefs. Kind of an a la carte system.
So it really is not so unique that a person born in Indiana, who lived in Tennessee and Pittsburgh would end up in what some people call "Amish country" looking for a church other than the one she came from.