I became a clergyman in the years of transition for the Church. Experience was once the most stringent requirement for a clergyman. I got there just in time to find one’s experience is as much baggage as benefit.
The historical framework in which I have labored, often unknowingly, is that place where three major generational groups converged. The Traditionals, who led the Church from just after WWII to the late 1960’s handed the baton off to the Moderns, who led the Church then from their starting point to the 1990’s, when they in turn were supplanted by the Post-Moderns/Millenials/Wired Generation.
The Traditionals were about mass crusades, the Moderns about business methods and the Post-Moderns emphasized community, sometimes community with people they never saw or touched but knew only in cyber-connection. Clergy trying to put together mass rallies in open air stadia are disappointed now to find people will not show up in tour buses to sit in straight rows and answer the call. The Moderns still want to use the Four Spiritual Laws but the younger people they confront want to talk about themselves and their feelings for days at a time.
One is reminded of the French Revolution, circa 1790 and following, with its three headed slogan, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” A nation was changed, to be sure, and with it all of Europe, and because of it all the New World. A lot of people lost their place in the process. Not a few lost their heads.
When we watch something be born, we feel a great deal of excitement and not a little afraid. When we watch something twist slowly in the wind, fall to the earth and there turn to dust, we are made a bit fearful again, and not much less sad.
So, the Transition Age for the Church, by which I mean Western Evangelicals in the Northern Hemisphere of the Americas (admittedly, only a tiny portion of the Church on earth) my working emotions are those; sadness, excitement and a bit of fearfulness. Something good from a half century ago, an anomaly in Christian history, is dying by degrees. Something else is being born. None of us really know what we are losing or what we will gain.
Along the way, I met a girl and married her. We grew up together, conceived and raised four children, whom we educated and who left us for mates of their own. Joan is the anchor, sometimes, and sometimes the sail. Ships at sea do not need an anchor only, you know. Our children, the little ships we made and set to sea found their own anchor-sails. They still love us, and we them, but they do not need us as they did. Appropriate affection for them comes from their mates and is, in turn, given by them to their little ones. We have four children, all married, and five grandchildren, with the prospect for more generations to come.
And I have met various persons who call me their mentor. The most persistent has been Todd Littleton, who is more a mentor to me in my dotage than I to him. When I was younger I went here and there, on my own, needing no hand to guide me. Now, later, eyes fading, I more often need a guide to take my arm in cyber-space.
In the passage of time there have been so many places where we have been happy. Midlothian, Texas, a company town in North Central Texas is the place where we raised our children, where they accepted the Sacred Rites and moved on with their lives. If you were to ask a Davis child where they were raised, they would each say, “Midlothian, Texas, when it was small but I thought it was so big.”
I never had a hobby but at some point along the way I became a youth sports coach and then an official. I have lost a lot of cartilage on a hard wood court with a whistle in my mouth and a crowd on my back. Baseball and softball move the crowd away a bit but not far enough.
Some editors paid me for my words for awhile. They are all gone and the religious houses have changed to accommodate a new generation. I now put my words on a screen, not a page, and for free, most often.
I took my granddaughters out for a day not long ago. We made our way around to various fun places in a few different towns. People who have known me in one way or the other over the years kept greeting us. Finally, the oldest granddaughter felt she should explain life to the younger one.
“Papa (me) knows everybody in the whole world,” she said.
No, not quite. I am working on it, as I near what must surely be the last productive decade of my life. There are some more stories I want to hear and some I want to write. There are whole ruling elites I have not agitated.
I still have time.