So we went up to the City by the Great Lake on Sunday afternoon. We went to see Earnest Younger Stepson, a serious sociology student at the University by the Great Lake.
On Monday, we made stops at a couple of local antique stores that we like to haunt. They know us so well at one of the stores that they asked where our partner was (they meant Scout.)
I had a good time looking through old children's illustrated books. I was this close to getting a hardcover copy of Elizabeth Enright's book, Thimble Summer. And there was a cute children's picture book, so exactly post-war, called "Betty and Bob Go to Church." I wish I had a picture of the dust jacket. Alas, I did not purchase that one either.
One of the proprietors, a bookseller who thinks I have good taste, took down some of the names of the authors I was looking for: Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire, Maud and Miska Petersham, Masha, Pelagie Doane. I especially like to find Bible Story books and prayer books.
At one point in our conversation he looked at me and said, "Are you a minister?" When I answered in the affirmative, he asked, "What has happened to the church lately? It seems that young people don't like the old songs any more. They want all this praise music."
My husband writes contemporary church music, so I am somewhat of an apologist for new music in church. He said he doesn't have a problem with new music, but ....
".... why forget about 20 centuries of tradition?" I completed his question for him.
He is a member of a small main-line congregation in town. I can tell he loves his church. They are wondering about their future. I would have loved to stay and talk more with him about 20 centuries of church tradition, about the growth in both the Pentecostal churches and also the growth in unbelief, otherwise known as "atheism."
(This could be a whole separate post, but Pentecostalism is the fastest growing religion in the world. We have to stop considering people like Sarah Palin out of the mainstream.)
I would love to have talked more about the mission of the church, and how in the era of "Betty and Bob" it was just assumed, and how we can't do that any more. I would have loved to tell him that 20 centuries of church music, prayers, literature and art are a part of a vibrant faith that is worth passing along.
The truth is, I don't have all the answers. But I think being part of the conversation is a great first step.
In those 20 centuries of tradition, what do you value, and why? What songs, prayers, and works of art live for you?