Now, Now

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

Quick survey:  what in your life is mostly the same as it was, say, 10 years ago?  Hopefully, relationships have endured and grown, along with other values, convictions, and callings you deem essential.  But what about other, less crucial things?  Do you have the same cell phone you did in 2014?  Are you driving the same car?  Living in the same space?  Sitting on the same furniture?  Eating and drinking the same amounts of the same things?  Wearing the same clothes?

It’s a good bet that some of these things are, in fact, the same, while others have changed.  You decided to try to get your car past the 150,000-mile mark, especially since it was paid off, so that you could use that money for other things.  You have found, alas, that some foods – in the same portions – don’t work as well in your body as they did when we were all, ahem, a bit younger.  If things changed, it is almost assuredly because a moment came when you chose – or were compelled – to examine the thing, and through evaluation decide to keep it or change it.

But how about all the things that haven’t changed?  Have they had that moment of evaluation?  Or are they still there, just because … well, because they have always been there?

Seth Godin helped us think about this recently, in a post we recommend to your board’s attention.  “Email, once the most modern form of interaction, hasn’t changed much at all since I got my first address in 1976,” Godin observes.  “There are a hundred ways it could be dramatically more effective and efficient, but it’s stuck.”  And then he continues, moving into even more relevant territory:

Weddings, high school graduations and funerals also remain similar to the way they’ve always been.

One reason these formats stick around is that they are connection devices, and we often believe that we have to stick with the status quo, because getting everyone involved to agree on a new method is too difficult. And yet, new methods do arise… but sometimes we stick with the old ones without wondering why.

Humans have been communicating and coordinating since the beginning. But in the last fifty years, we’ve transformed the tech–now we need to think hard about whether we’re sticking with something because it works, or because we always have done it that way.

In our work with church boards, pastors, and congregations, the question often comes up:  what are things going to be like for the church in five years?  The only honest answer we can give is, we aren’t sure (and we can’t completely trust anyone who says they are).  What we do know is that we need to be absolutely clear-eyed about what God is doing now, and what people in and out of the church really need now.

American poet Suzanne Lummis offers guidance on how to get to the now, now, in the following poem.

Hurrying Toward the Present
 by Suzanne Lummis

“No past tense permitted”

Kay Boyle from A Poem for Samuel Beckett


Darlings, this may be the only 

great escape we ever make:

start dropping your past

behind you–seeds, kernels

to be pecked up by scavengers.

You won’t find your way back.


Or try this: package it,

mark it Was. Leave it in a locker

at the Greyhound Bus station.

Leave the door ajar. Let

a thief inherit it. You can bet

it’ll dog him like it dogged you.


Step smack-flat into

the blasting present,

your heart asserting Now-Now.

You feel neither the pain

left behind, nor what waits

tapping its hard foot 

up ahead.


And now, stand up the future!

Let it go on pacing and cursing

as it peers towards your whereabouts,

and the cat’s eye gleam

of its watch calculates

the lateness of the hour.



What is one thing you have actively chosen to change in your own life in the past ten years?


How about in the life of your congregation? Can you as a board do a quick go-round on something significant that the church has actively chosen to change?


How did your congregation shed these parts of its past? (Did you “leave the door ajar” for someone else to inherit them?)


Why should we not only drop the past but “stand up the future,” in Lummis’s phrase?


What would it look like for your congregation to start “hurrying toward the present?”


What is one unchanged part of your congregation’s life that might be ripe for evaluation at your next meeting?

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