Church and politics not so different, really

I took part in my precinct’s caucus on Tuesday, which was a first for me. It was crowded, brimming with energy, and sometimes bordering on chaotic.

Some might say it was a “raucous caucus.” But enough bad wordplay from me.

As many have read by now, there was an eclectic blend of seasoned veterans and newbies, all trying to learn how to work a pretty confusing political system together. In a lot of ways, it was a metaphor for what the church is going through as well.

The experienced members of the caucus were thrilled to see such an unprecedented number of people turn out, and to see so many younger folks excited to take part. You could feel the energy in the air, and it was all smiles, at least for a little while.

As generally is the case, the glow waned as we got down to business. Like many church denominations, the caucus process has layers upon layers of processes and policies, some of which might seem arcane or even pointless to the untrained eye. However, the veterans in the group began to navigate the procedural waters with ease, only to be hung up, time and again, by the naive, inquisitive, and probably annoying, newcomers.

We were much like preschool children, with our hands in everything, asking “What’s this?” and “Why do you do it that way?” Though the inclination is to answer the 20th question with a resolute “Because I said so,” the leaders summoned the patience and tried over and over to bring us up to speed.

What began as a jubilant celebration of political activism turned into an hours-long marathon of deciphering rules, deliberating about the appointment of delegates, a few phone calls and appeals to the local party representative.

By the time we finished, no one was entirely satisfied with what we had accomplished, and everyone looked tired and beleaguered.

Church is much the same in its current desire to welcome hordes of now-distant young folks into their communities of faith. It misses the energy of young children, the creativity of youth and the hope found in the presence of young families.

The problems begin, however, when they actually come. You walk in one morning, ready to enjoy your Sunday morning cup of coffee, and the pot is dry. You’d munch on a doughnut as a meager substitute, but some scrawny little punk just ran off with the last Danish. You head to the sanctuary to find your favorite seat, only to find it filled, and what in the world is the racket coming from the front of the room?

Since when do we have guitars in worship? Who approved that anyway?

You head indignantly to the next leadership meeting to air your concerns, but you have been bumped down the docket so the new associate minister can talk to the group about a youth mission project. The seemingly benign conversation degrades into a more passionate argument about the overall mission of the church, and before you can get in your two cents’ worth, the youth choir starts warming up nearby.

Dejected, you take a handful of aspirin and ask yourself where the good old days went, and why it was that you wanted all this new blood in your church in the first place.

Change is hard for everyone, especially those who were there first. Sometimes the idea of new faces is more appealing than the reality, but politics, like church, is a messy, complicated business.

What’s most important is not that we all agree on the issues, or even that we get along. What really matters is that, once we come around the table together, we stick together, and that we keep welcoming new voices and attitudes, in spite of the discomfort that comes along with it.

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