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By Charles E. Gilmore A

fter many years of life and ministry, I’ve learned that when someone takes a posi- tion that moves us to one extreme, more times than not perspective has been lost and the importance of the other side is overlooked. So it is with “Insiders and outsiders” in the February issue of The Lutheran (page 34).

There the author writes: “To

embrace relevance, we will have to let go of survival.” However, the opposite pole of relevance is identity, not survival. Sometimes for the sake of change one is in danger of selling out one’s soul—the core of what gives iden- tity, meaning, purpose and connect- edness not only to what is, but yes, to what has been. Tradition has become a dirty word in contemporary society—a society that is all too quick to jump from one fad to another or to walk away from relationships in search of an elusive “something better.” Just because something has been around for a while doesn’t make it irrelevant.

fast Notso

on ‘insiders and outsiders’

Expression of old, old story as relevant to human yearnings as when first written

made considering what will attract spiritually hungry outsiders but what will please the card-carrying, bill- paying membership.”

If we are willing to put everything on the chopping block (“It needs a church that will sacrifice everything for those outside buildings, budgets, sacred cows, traditions, structures”), let’s be certain we aren’t cutting the meat—into the core of the com- munity’s lifeblood as it were. By lifeblood I don’t mean the sources of income but the core of meaning and what gives value and identity to who we are.

The author writes: “Take hymns, for example. Musical decisions aren’t

Gilmore is a retired ELCA pastor who lives in Hot Springs Village, Ark. He holds a doctorate in systematic theology.

Could it be that those members find in these great hymns (as have many in centuries prior) the living word, the saving message, the story of life and salvation? What outsiders may be looking for is not only the good news of the gospel but a church that speaks, lives and believes these truths with an authentic faith that rises out of the core of who they are and who they have come to be, captured by the truth of these words.

Perhaps if the hymns we sing, the

liturgy that forms our worship, the creeds we proclaim no longer com- municate, the fault may not be in the form but in the function. Perhaps we have failed to communicate, to nurture, to teach the prospective outsider and even those inside the

34 The Lutheran •

church about the truth, the beauty and the meaning these forms pos- sess, not just for us but for vast mil- lions who have found meaning in them through the centuries and even now.

Every Sunday night in Seattle, hundreds of 20-somethings flock to the sanctuary of St. Mark’s Epis- copal Church to worship together. What is it that they gather so regularly to hear and share? They gather in reverence, in anticipation of being touched by the mystery of divine holiness. Through sung chant, polyphony and the traditional compline liturgy, they come want- ing to be taken up into something larger than themselves—something that quiets, if only for a moment, the frantic pace of their day. Young people fill the pews, sit on the chancel steps, find open floor space in the aisles because they know that here in this place and in

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