Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
After the last Vision Team meeting, Rev. Rob Dyer, Pastor of Bellville United, sent me a suggestion to have a “Church 2060 event.” Rob challenged me to think about what the church would look like in 2060, 40 years from now. The next week, I was in Philadelphia meeting with a group of presbytery executives. We convened at a downtown Presbyterian church in City Center. This church sat between the headquarters of Comcast. These two glass buildings- each will be over 56 stories when completed—have cutting edge design and technology. We went in one building and watched the 2000 square foot, high-definition LED presentation on the history of communication. It was so realistic I thought the people were present! We had lunch in the other tower. I saw people connecting their phones and devices to jacks located on tables, walls, and other furniture. For lunch in the café, I had a salad where the romaine lettuce heart was grilled, then cheese was melted with a blow torch, before the figs were added! In addition, my fellow EPs and I were the oldest people in the room!
The church in the middle is struggling. They do not have a Presbyterian pastor, but rather, a pastor who has an excellent spirit of hospitality. The worship attendance has gotten to be 60 in a sanctuary that seats several hundred. It is a huge structure with many needed repairs. For example, there is a beautiful antique oven in the kitchen, but it doesn’t work.
So, what is the future of the church between the two towers? Where will it be in 40 or 50 years? Perhaps the church I saw in Philly is symbolic of the Presbyterian denomination in our society. On one side we have the tower of racial ethnic change with the browning of America. On the other side we have the tower of irrelevance: a disconnect with the values of post-modernity including gender, sexuality, and environmentalism. The future of the church must take these towering issues into consideration.
More importantly, the future is one of a blended reality without heavy lines drawn to determine who is in and who is out.
In Philadelphia, on one side of the church (an obvious new addition) is completely glass to match the tower. It is hard to tell where the church ends and the tower begins. This is a good sign. The church of the future will need to have boundaries that are porous and less rigid. Perhaps it should be made of more transparent glass and less stone and brick. It may be that people will then feel as much a part of the church in the center, as they do to their office in the tower.
Rev. Craig M. Howard