Monday, April 7, 2008

Addendum to Nice vs. Necessary

Let me add an addendum. When I make the distinction between nice and necessary, I am writing in terms of people wishing to "improve" a congregation - not writing in defense of a minimalistic, let's get rid of everything sort of approach. A pure reductionistic approach isn't right - and someone who would argue "Well, we don't *have* to have something nice" is coming from a radically different approach than what I am writing to here.

My concern is for the faithful "Confessional" Pastor who comes upon a practice/custom which is perhaps less than ideal. You can live with that. You don't need to fix the customs. Preach, teach - do that which is necessary - and let the nice things come later. I'll come up with an example (even though I hesitate to do so). I've been here nearly four years, and the American flag still flanks the altar. Is that "nice"? Well - I don't like it - it should be, if it is present in the Church, on the level of the congregation and not of the altar. I know it doesn't quite fit from a strictly theological point of view - I've gone to worship in a foreign country and been distracted by a different flag, a flag not my own by the altar. I see that there is something not quite appropriate there.

But how many of my people have that experience? Not many. So - shall I move the flag, the flag that has been there for decades, the flag that is part of this congregation? Eh, probably not. I've mentioned it to a few people - who knows, maybe in a decade or so we will move it. It's a minor point - and the congregation can be quite solid theologically and thoroughly Lutheran with it there. It's not a necessity to move it - so let it stay.

In our strive for making a Church how it ought to be we need to remember that what is "needed" isn't always what is nice. It's a shame if we fight about things that are nice, things that we ought to be able to put up with - and then have people write off good, solid theology because it's the stuff that "stupid, unpatriotic pastor talked about."

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