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How Do We Grow?

Editor’s Corner

Last summer at one of our family camps, I attended a discussion group about where the church is going. I have to say, I had never attended a discussion group before. They are typically at a time where my camp responsibilities made it difficult to attend. But this one was added on at a different time, and it was a topic I care deeply about. It was a good discussion that could have kept going. But by the end I left being made to feel guilty by someone that my priorities weren’t straight since we didn’t attend Sunday worship due to our many other family responsibilities, primarily youth sports. This was from someone I just met, who thought it was best to tell me that family worship on Sundays should be at the top of my priorities. Me. I live and breathe for the Swedenborgian Church and my faith in my daily life. I pride myself in teaching my kids that you follow through with your commitments. I have to say, I was offended.

Sunday services do not work for most young, active families. And you know what? That’s ok! You know what we have done? We dial-in and listen to a service for as long as we can in our car. Catholic families in our town have four different times over the weekend that they can go one mile down the street and participate in worship. And you know what? That’s great for them! It does not work for Swedenborgian families. Our closest location to worship in-person is thirty minutes away. (That is probably close for most of us.) We would have to dedicate our full Sunday morning to church. Apparently, some view that as my priorities aren’t straight.

Is that the case? Truly in our church that focuses on small heavenly communities? God doesn’t take attendance, I know in my heart this is true. We live our lives everyday by the golden rule. Our family looks forward all year to the extended periods of time (camps, retreats, conventions) that we spend with our spiritual communities—it keeps us going. So why do I inherently feel guilty that we don’t attend Sunday services?

Ultimately, the mentality needs to change. We need to continue to find multiple options for worship, community, and use for all walks of life, wherever we are. Our Swedenborgian denomination is so special, so unique… and we need to embrace and show that. The standard format is not conducive to growth. So how do we grow? We keep looking for the pockets of what make us special, the atypical church, and embrace them. I have two, brilliant, loving kids who adore their spiritual families. But we cannot as a family commit to the societal norm of church. I implore our spiritual communities to keep looking towards the future. What is next? How do we lead the way of worship in younger people and families that works in their insanely busy lives? We have an abundance of outside the box thinkers, we can do it—and not only succeed but thrive. 

I am very much looking forward to this year’s Annual Convention Swedenborg: Envisioning the Future, the topic feels very timely (See the cover for details). Also see p. 21 for a new virtual education offering from Rev. Dr. Devin Zuber, and p. 28 for a new way of being community with Rev. Sage Cole.

—Beki Greenwood

Read the full issue of the April 2024 Messenger

Meet Beki Greenwood

Beki Greenwood is the editor of the Messenger. She is a board member of the Fryeburg New Church Assembly in Fryeburg, Maine, and a long-time member of the Bridgewater Church in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.