Super Saturday Attendees Called to Get Their Boldness On
WILBRAHAM, MA - Author Brian McLaren told more than 700 people on Saturday that it is time for progressive Christians to get bold, and that the only things hindering them are in their minds.
"The house is on fire, and it's time to wake up and get bold," McLaren said. "This is an actual emergency. This is a time for boldness. And I think its time for progressive people of faith to get their boldness back."
Speaking to a record Super Saturday crowd at Minnechaug Regional High School, McLaren acknowledged that times have changed for mainline Protestants in this country since their heyday in the 1950s.
"To be a UCC person in New England in the middle part of the 20th Century was like being a Southern Baptist in Georgia or Alabama is today. You were at the center of your culture's power," he said. "But guess what folks - there was a shift. You're not in the center any more. The big tall spire mocks the actual reality. It's not your fault. You don't have to feel ashamed. Times have just changed. It's a different world."
McLaren said that for the last 50 years, mainline Protestants have moved from denial of their loss of cultural centrality to depression about it. But, he said, what is past is past and that doesn't need to stop the progressive church from being bold now.
"Hindrance is in your mind. Decline is in your mind. Nostalgia is in your mind," he said. "This could be a moment of phenomenal opportunity if we get over that cultural shift."
McLaren said its time for mainline Protestants to rediscover what they're about.
"There is a movement building. A movement for justice. A movement for joy. A movement for peace. A movement of the spirit. A movement that says the earth matters. A movement that says all people matter, no exceptions," he said. "If we're a part of that movement, you better believe we want to invite other people to be come part of that movement. If we're to understand all those little white buildings in all the New England towns as centers of organizing for a spiritual movement - that's a movement worth inviting people to join."
"It all begins with rediscovering our core message," he said. "I know that Jesus has been kidnapped by religious fundamentalists. It's time for people like us to liberate Jesus - to let him speak his bold message of revolutionary love once again through us."
McLaren talked about two reasons so many mainline churches are failing to be part of that movement right now.
"The biggest reason that we have a boldness deficit in a lot of our congregations is because we're walking on eggshells," he said. "This is true across denominations. In almost every congregation there's a small number of people who are holding everyone else hostage with some money. And what happens is everyone's afraid that if we offend one or two people or one or two families, if we say something they don't like, we're going to go out of business. No one who is walking on eggshells has ever been bold."
Second, McLaren said may churches today think they are hampered by the lack of young people in the pews.
"One of the most encouraging things in the entire world right now is how many old people are really ticked off," he said. "They didn't work hard all their lives to watch the world and their country go down to hell in this hand basket."
"So you can say - 'we've got a lot of older people, that's really a hindrance.' But hindrance is in your mind. If we can mobilize those people - if they can get bold - stuff could happen. Older and bolder is a good combination," he said.
McLaren spoke as part of the morning worship, during which people were invited to write on cards what was hindering them from boldness. At the close of the day, worship leaders The Rev. Rebecca Floyd Marshall, Pastor of the Unite Congregational Church of Little Compton, RI and The Rev. John Allen, Pastor of the First Congregational Church of Milton, MA, summarized what had been written on the cards as follows;
61 of us are hindered by our fear that we are not good enough or smart enough - that we do not have the right knowledge or skills or experience to overcome what stands in our way.
64 of us are hindered by nostalgia - by grieving for what is gone and by resistance to the new thing that is becoming.
72 of us are hindered by our fear of conflict, our fear of offending people, our fear of divisions.
94 of us are hindered by scarcity, by a sense that there is not enough: Not enough time, not enough money, not enough volunteers, not enough faith.
101 of us are hindered by our fear that if we are boldly Christian, we will lose our families and our friends; that we will lose our progressive 'street cred,' or that we will lose our place of acceptance in our churches or our communities.
Finally, Allen, said "213 of us are hindered by fear. Forty percent of the cards we collected had the word 'fear' on them. 14 cards had only that one word. We fear failure. We fear consequences. We fear judgement. We fear isolation. And yet, God is ever with us. God is our refuge and our strength. What then shall we fear?"