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  • Writer's picture Brian E Pearson

Boomer Church

Is the death of the church "news" only to Baby Boomers? Is this one more way that we, by force of our great numbers, have controlled the conversation, shutting down the voices that have been talking about this for years? Have we been disabling the efforts of those who might actually have turned things around?

Wine label from Blasted Church Vineyard, BC

A Generation X friend of mine, also a priest, set me straight the other day. We were sharing stories about the death of the church. Specifically, we were bemoaning how hard it is for clergy to do their jobs--to bring new ideas to a congregation--while the ship is going down. People just want you to hold their hands.

Then she looked at me, hard. She had read an earlier blog of mine that talked about the death of the church as if this were some new revelation. "Really?!" she said. "At seminary, almost twenty years ago, we [by which she meant Gen Xers] talked a lot about the death of the church, about it not lasting long enough to provide us with a lifelong career, let alone a pension. By then you [by which she meant Boomers] will have used it up."

First, let me say to my friend how sorry I am about the pension fund. My wife and I have just returned from a week in Maui so I assume this is what you're talking about. I thought I was just living my privileged life, without leaving a negative economic footprint. But now I'll go forward feeling guilty about it. I hope this will help in some small way.

As to the other thing, I do wish we Boomers might have acted long ago on your prescience rather than just holding on for the ride down. While ageing clergy--white males in particular--have served to make folks in the pews feel safe about the church's future, as if it would just be a continuation of their childhood memories, we should have been listening to you all along. As it is, you've inherited a mess that's all but unsalvageable. I'm sorry if we stood in your way. This seems to be what older generations are destined to do.

But, to put things in perspective, the other day I was watching a YouTube show featuring media stars Rhett and Link. They are Gen Xers, your generation, who rode the social media wave right to its very crest, with over 16 million subscribers to their YouTube channel. They were being interviewed by a pretty twenty-something, a Millennial, twenty years their junior. She said she was pleased to be hanging out that day with "two older dudes who are not my dad." So it's coming to you too. I'm just saying.

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