Everything Has Changed; Nothing Has Changed By Reverend Bob Chell
It was 1969. I was a junior in high school and our Luther League drove from Rapid City to Sioux Falls to attend a gathering at Augustana College. We attended a play at the Augustana Theater that evening. It’s the only thing I remember about the weekend, and the only thing I recall about the play was the refrain which the actors chanted throughout the production: “In the first third of your life, you choose your faith, your work and your wife.”
I spent the bulk of my career as a campus pastor. It was the last years where change happened exponentially. One year, only two students had cell phones, the next year almost everyone did. I recall asking for emails and only getting two and the following year all university correspondence with students and staff was via email. As a campus pastor I loved email until no one answered. Then I learned I had to use Facebook until the following year when texting was the only way to reach students. I felt as if I didn’t know how to be a pastor anymore—and there was some truth in that, it was time to retire. Yet it was in these years of hyper change that the admittedly sexist refrain of 1969 came back to me, “In the first third of your life, you choose your faith, your work and your wife.” I realized while everything had changed, nothing had changed. Students were still determining the values which would guide their lives, what they were called to do and searching,
yearning, looking for a life partner.
I thought of this again while reading Tod Bolsinger’s book, Canoeing the Mountains. You who are serving rural congregations are better equipped than I to name the constants in the chaos of our world today.
Then I came across an article written for The Lutheran Standard by a rural pastor in 1985 (see file attached at the end of this article.) Like the chorus of an ancient theater production, there is a refrain which rings true yet today.
It won’t tell you how to be more effective or efficient in serving your congregation but it will affirm your calling to stand with the people of God in the midst of the chaos.
Watch for the refrain which rings through the history of your congregation, the rhythm of planting and harvesting, I’m sure. Beyond that I’ll leave it to you., It is this refrain which will ground both you and your ministry in things that matter, things of substance, things which sustain us through the chaos.