Hold the Fort?

During the summer, the congregation to which I belong worships Sundays in its fellowship hall, not its sanctuary.  The rationale:  the former is air-conditioned.  If, moreover, you can’t make it to the fellowship hall, you can flip open your computer at home or wherever you might find yourself and participate in the Sunday Liturgy via Zoom.  I hear that many congregations, across the country, are doing likewise – holding the fort, in this way.  Probably a good idea.  Do what you have to do to keep the People of God worshipping, and hopefully worshipping well, on any given Sunday.

Accordingly, in my own forty years in the pastoral ministry, I took it for granted – often with great anticipation – that on any given day I’d “get up and go to work,” that is, head to my church office or to some church-related meeting somewhere.  With this way of thinking, I’d of course be ready to answer questions like these, especially in the company of pastoral colleagues:  “how was your attendance on Sunday” or “how ya doin’ with the budget?”

On the other hand, I instinctively knew, as have most practicing pastors I’ve known, that holding the fort isn’t the best metaphor for pastoral ministry or for the life of the Church more generally.  Sure, we can sing “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” with some zeal.  But I daresay that few who are followers of Jesus, even, among them, followers of Luther, would ever want to sing – at least, out loud – “A Mighty Fortress is our Church,” even though some – many? – assume that the best thing our churches can do in our “secular age” is to – hold the fort.

My grandmother, of course, was right.  The whole point of belonging to the Church is to practice what you preach – or one of the whole points, I would say to myself later on in my college and seminary years, when I was taken with the witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and also with the 20th century Movement for Liturgical Renewal.  Hold the fort?  No, do what you’re called to do.

(To be continued.)