|In this time of change for religion in the United States, my ministry is like the temporary signs that help direct traffic during construction and change. Some -but not all- will become permanent fixtures as signs along the road. These signs, often adhered to gates, barriers or on wooden pedestals, often work to experiment, observe, help through the change and/or see what helps traffic. It lets people know the exit is still in the same place…for just a bit longer. It prepares drivers for the new ramps and lanes to come.
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The work I do in ministry reminds me of my neighborhood. It’s a new neighborhood, yet in the thick of a metropolitan area. There is a constant flow of new visitors navigating our new streets, our new signs and pedestrian crosswalks that may or may not be very visible to drivers. Our city’s neighborhood assistance system is often overloaded with calls from my neighborhood, where residents make frequent requests for new signs to go up to cope with what we are learning works best for all the foot, pet, bike, vehicle and construction traffic in our midst. Some of the current signs simply don’t work for this mix of people, so we ask for new signs to help develop a safer environment for all. If the city checks it out and agrees, we see those changes happen. For example, it is common for a 2-way stop to ultimately be treated like a 4-way stop, as folks acclimate to new roads, building, residents and visitors. Eventually it very well may just become a 4-way stop, if we discover that’s what’s safest. We see more and more pedestrians choosing to cross at certain intersections more than others; they will likely become equipped with pedestrian signs or lights in the near future.
Because I engage in nontraditional, experimental ministry, it often seems like I am discovering what signs still matter, and which ones it may be time to change. The important aspect of my call, in service to the future of Church and my colleagues who serve in more institutional contexts, is to pay enough attention to reinforce a sign that still matters, take it down or try a different one out to see if it might work better for our service to God and God’s people.