None of these things will change, even if they do become financially and perhaps legally harder. The world around may legitimate whatever sleaze, self-indulgence and self-deception it may choose. It may decide that black is white, that up is down, and that north is south, for all I care. The needs of my congregation—of all congregations—will remain, at the deepest level, the same that they have always been, as will the answers which Christianity provides. The tomb is still empty. And my ministry will continue to be made up of the same elements as that of my of spiritual forefathers: Word, sacraments, prayer.
Rod Dreher has been creating quite a helpful and productive stir with his arguments in favor of the “Benedict Option” as a way for the church to think about its mission in a world where Christianity is thrust to the despised cultural margins. I am not sure where I stand on all of the details—some seem yet to be worked out—but he is surely highlighting the fact that in America things are changing rapidly and that Christians need to realize that. Much of what he says resonates with the notion of church as exile community, with which I have deep sympathy. Yet part of me wonders if we need a new (or perhaps “new old”) option at all.
Last Sunday was my silver wedding anniversary. On Saturday, my wife was asked by a friend how we intended to mark the occasion. “Well, it is on a Sunday so I guess we will be in church in the morning and the evening for the regular services. Then in the afternoon we are planning to visit one of the housebound older ladies in the congregation. We will probably spend an hour reading the Bible and singing hymns with her.”
And so we did. Standard worship service in the morning, then a pastoral visit, where a few of us gathered with an elderly Christian sister in her home. I read her a Psalm, a friend prayed, and we sang some hymns before closing with the doxology. Finally, back to church for the evening service. That was our Silver Wedding Anniversary. Because, of course, the personal significance of the day was as nothing compared to the significance of it being the Lord’s Day and thus one to be devoted to worship of God and fellowship with other Christians. The incidentals of my life, rather like the incidentals of my culture, are just that—incidentals—and of no real significance compared to the substance and practice of the Faith.