Those of us who are new want to make whatever changes are necessary to stay alive. Some of those who grew up in the church, on the other hand, are terrified of change….We finally agreed (after a long, painful discussion full of emotion) to proceed with plans for our 170th congregational anniversary celebration in June. We plan to have a picnic and family-oriented activities for up to 150 people.
Our church is also (and has been for several years) going through significant growth. Frequently, the ones who voice concerns or objections to change are the older members of the congregation, who often get pegged as “mean” or “fearful” as a result.
Are they so mean? Or are they trying to communicate their own needs? Change can be scary:
- “I don’t like the change from communion wafers to the torn pita bread.” Translation: the larger, more irregular pieces are more difficult to chew. I’m afraid I’ll choke.
- “That modern music doesn’t belong in a church.” Translation: my hearing aids can’t accomodate the broadcast of electric guitar through the low-bid speakers we installed ten years ago. My ears hurt.
- “The church is too crowded already.” Translation: I’m unsteady on my feet and I get nervous in crowded situations.
- “People shouldn’t talk in church.” Translation: I’m already having a difficult time hearing; when you talk during the service, I hear even less of what’s going on.
- “We always eat inside.” Translation: “I’m afraid of falling. Uneven ground and tippy chairs increase the chance that I might fall.”
- “It’s so expensive!” Translation: I give what I can out of my fixed income. If we go over budget at the end of the year, I feel obligated to help pay my share in that deficit. I remember what is was like not to have enough to eat. I live within a budget so that will never happen to me again; why can’t my church?
- “Your children are misbehaving.” Translation: Your children are misbehaving. Wouldn’t you like to do something about that?
- “We’re growing too fast.”Translation: I helped build this church; its traditions are a comfort and source of memories. I feel dishonored and rejected when we throw those traditions aside. I feel isolated by changes that make it harder for me to participate — my own body is limiting me enough as it is.
Fat Doctor is a kind and insightful woman. Her church is lucky to have her, and I’m hoping she’ll discuss some of the solutions her congregation devises to meld the “old” with the “new.”