Thursday, August 03, 2006

Silence in the churches

Barbara Brown Taylor teaches religion at Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia. Her new book is Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, published by HarperSanFrancisco. In the most recent issue of National Catholic Reporter, she writes, There is no better place to forget that the United States is at war than in church. Three years after the invasion of Iraq, stories of bloody bombings and mounting casualties still top each day’s news but remain conspicuously absent from the discourse of most neighborhood churches.
Like it or not, clergy are the arbiters of this uneasy peace. Called to be shepherds of the whole flock, we must think at least twice before taking stands that church members may hear as choosing sides. If we want to tell the truth, then we had better hide it inside a story, or else save room on our calendars to mend fences wrecked by bolting sheep.

From a more pastoral point of view, clergy are often the only people in a congregation who regularly visit the sick, bury the dead and comfort those who mourn. Most of us have held enough broken hearts in our hands to wonder if this is not the division that matters most, beside which all other human rifts pale in comparison.

Yet at the same time, churches do not exist exclusively for the comfort of their own members. From earliest times, churches have also existed to stand with the poor, feed the hungry, visit those in prison and care for the widows and orphans, while challenging the authority of those in power who are not using their power to do these things. For clergy mindful of this ministry as well, there can come a time when keeping the flock together rubs hard against reminding the flock why it exists.

The entire article is available here (registration required).