Remember when kindergarten children were first encouraged to express what they thought and how they felt? What a change from expecting that “children should be seen but not heard.”
A couple of generations have now past. Encouraging freedom of expression is more of a norm, and many things come to light. Those who have found their voice also found a freedom to say, “I don’t want to.…” Children have become adults who have children of their own. They and their kin question many institutional norms.
Participation in church activities has dropped.
Churches find it difficult to assume their role as guardians of Scripture, the sacraments and rituals when adherents demand freedom to consider alternative spiritual practices.
Thankfully, we are well served by a variety of faith-based institutions. Each has its own way of working with adherents.
One approach clings to the tradition of saying, “the Church is responsible for your soul. Trust yourself into our care and keeping.”
Another approach, from what I understand, focuses on helping individuals find ways to be “saved” from wrong-thinking and wrong-doing, accept the Lord and feel themselves set apart for heavenly reward.
A third way, if I might make simplistic comparisons, encourages individuals to assume responsibility for their own spiritual nurture, with the church there to help. Slowly, some within this style of institutional religion encourage seekers to speak freely about where they have been and what they have discovered of God in their journey. The Christian path is there for them to explore.
Joyce Sasse writes for the Canadian Rural Church Network at www.canadian ruralchurch.net.