By Walter Boomsma,
We took an extra vacation this year! Don’t worry, I’m not going to write about that. But in the course of that second trip, we reconnected with an old friend at a dulcimer concert in New York. The concert was held in a perhaps unusual venue—a large church complex.
While waiting for the concert there was plenty of opportunity to explore. Given my interest in communications, I found myself enjoying the many different messages posted and on tables with clipboards. This was clearly an active place with a number of systems in place to both manage the complex and the many programs offered.
One of the messages I found particularly interesting was “What if we rethink Church?” The questions were too many to list here, but let me give you a taste. I’ve taken the liberty of changing “church” to “Grange.”
- What if we rethink Grange—not in terms of what it is, but what it could be?
- What if all our Granges were active vibrant places where people wanted to be?
- What if Grange wasn’t just a place to go, but something we do?
- What if we could offer the world a new vision that inspires faith, hope, charity and fidelity? (For those who may miss the subtlety, this question is based on the Grange Salutation.)
Those seem like big challenges—at least at first. But if we pay attention to our heritage we know that small seeds can yield large crops.
And it’s not a zero-sum game. Mary French, Director of the Dictionary Project wrote an interesting article in this summer’s Dictionary Project Newsletter, “iPads vs Books.” She makes a very convincing case for not abandoning the traditional paper and pencil and printed text. For us “older folk,” it’s comforting to hear the value of the tools we grew up with is still very real. But that doesn’t mean we have to abandon technology either. Mary’s article points out the importance of critical thinking. “What if” questions are part of that process.
During our road trip we drove by a nameless library in a small town in Vermont. The front lawn included some nice shade trees with Adirondack-style chairs that invited one to sit and read. A restaurant we visited was decorated with artwork done by local school students. They weren’t just taped to the wall, they were matted and framed giving the restaurant an “art gallery” feel. These are simple examples of rethinking. A library is more than a place to store books; a restaurant is more than a place to eat.
Returning to the church, I was particularly struck by an invitation to look at organization from the outside in, from the inside out, and upside down in order to develop “…a new understanding that opening our doors isn’t just about letting people in, but about us going out and making personal connections in the world around us.”
If you visit Janice and I at our home and are observant, you’ll perhaps think our welcome mat is backwards. Unless somebody has “fixed” it, I keep it placed so it says, “Welcome” as one is leaving. It’s a perhaps silly and subtle way of communicating that the world is a pretty cool place to be with lots to offer.
“Let’s make some news, take some photos of it, and share it!”