November 29, 2006

Make Way for Wizards & Pirates

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Sitting in a coffee house in downtown Marysville, I couldn't help but overhear the manager, sitting at the table next to me, discuss with two others plans for the future: changes to the menu, new items, what direction the restaurant's “identity” should take.

Why change? I wondered. People seem to like the place the way it is. For many, it is a familiar place, a place of comfort, a place where they can get a cup of coffee (or, in my case, tea), visit with neighbors or enjoy a book, and know that, with all the changes taking place in the world, at least they'd still have a place to go that is safe and familiar.

Sitting there at my corner table, my thoughts shifted to Disneyland, where plans are currently being developed to transform Tom Sawyer's Island into “Pirate Island.” Apparently, Tom Sawyer isn't as popular as he once was. However, not everyone is happy with the proposed makeover to this park landmark. One frequent Disneyland guest commented, “I never go to Tom Sawyer Island, but I like knowing that it's there.” For him, Tom Sawyer Island is a part of what makes Disneyland Disneyland; it's familiar and comforting to him, and even though it no longer meets his need for entertainment (given that he never goes there), he doesn't want it to change.

As I took a sip of my tea, my thoughts drifted next to home and family. I remembered sitting on the living room couch watching “Blues Clues” with my sons, or reading to them The Very Hungry Caterpillar. However, my sons are now in first and fourth grades, and family activities have changed. Now, we watch Star Wars, and they read to me from Harry Potter. I've had to adapt and change in order to keep up, to remain an effective parent ... and no matter how much I may miss what seem now to be the easy days of preschool, I hear a voice in my head saying, “Just wait until adolescence.” More changes lie ahead.

Finally, my thoughts settled on church. Like so many other things in our lives, I suspect many of us appreciate having a church where things (and people) are familiar, a place that doesn't change, a place where we find comfort and stability. Yet I fear that church has become a lot like Tom Sawyer Island: we like knowing it's there, even if it's not meeting our needs or fulfilling its mission.

In a changing community, the coffee house must change in order to remain a friendly, familiar place in the neighborhood. In a changing world, the “happiest place on earth” must transform its attractions if they are to remain relevant to a changing population. In a changing family, parenting must adapt to the changing needs and interests of the children. In a changing society, the church must continually transform itself so that it may continue to carry out its mission.

Blue's Clues and Tom Sawyer may be cool, but now is the time for wizards and pirates. And I'm OK with that. Wizards and pirates are pretty cool, too.

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