The Church Moves Like a Snail
August 29, 2013

Dear Theo,

I am discouraged that people in my church seem not to be willing to consider new ideas, such as recycling or converting the church to solar power even though they wouldn't cost any money and would help the environment.  What would you suggest?

Discouraged about closed-mindedness

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Dear Discouraged,

People are people wherever you go - and in church, even moreso. At a church I used to serve, I got so frustrated with the pace of change that one of my parishioners gave me a Beanie Baby snail - to remind me of the DNA encoded in the Church.

Ancient institutions don't adapt quickly - and the Christian church is one of the longest continuously-running human institutions. This is bad news in a modern world and a culture (not to mention a climate) that moves more like a cheetah than a snail. You understand the urgency of addressing environmental sustainability in the church, but they don't - or if they do, it frightens them, because of the implication that we are getting closer and closer to climate disaster.

When people feel loved, they will do almost anything for you. How well do you know these people, their hopes, dreams and fears? I suggest you take some time to build relationships, learn their culture. This will make them less likely to feel defensive: not criticized by someone outside of their circle, but brought along by a partner on the inside.

Be calm in your communications, surface any anxieties and tensions without judging, use humor to make sure the air stays in the room during conversations about change, and suggest trying something for 6 months to see how it works. Find an influential leader in the church and ask them to co-lead a Bible study on Creation-care with you.

And last of all, take the long view! Even if it feels like time is short. It's all relative.

Bless you, and may you be a blessing,

Theo

Who is Theo?

"Dear Theo" is written anonymously by three UCC ministers of different ages and backgrounds - one main writer and two respite writers. We're hoping the questions will span all kinds of topics: from sexuality and relationships to church culture and conflict to mental health, family drama, ethical and moral dilemmas, and everything in between.

Every week will feature a new letter and a new answer. Please write Dear Theo with your questions and problems by sending to deartheo@ucc.org. Letter writers identities will also ALWAYS remain anonymous.

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