Posts Tagged ‘Community of Faith Presbyterian’

Library Lessons

January 21, 2015

I started a new job just after Christmas, a second job to supplement my job at Community of Faith, so I am now officially a tentmaker. The wisdom of church thinkers tells us that this is a new direction for churches to go in, to move away from full time clergy, especially in smaller or more rural churches. It can help a church’s bottom line to not be paying a pastor a full time salary; and it can be helpful to the pastor as well, because it forces him or her to keep very good boundaries between the church and the rest of life. And if you’ve ever worked as a part-time pastor you know there really isn’t such a thing, especially if you’re not good at keeping boundaries, and many pastors who are paid a part-time salary end up working around the clock anyway. However, juggling the hours I work at my “other job” with the duties I am entrusted with at the church is already proving to be tricky; but so far the COF leadership has been understanding, and I am hopeful that as time goes along things will settle into place.

My second job is at a local library in the community next door to Covington, a small town called Newport. Working at the library has always been a dream of mine, mainly because I love books and I love to read and I love libraries. I started going to the library as a young child and had my own library card as soon as I was old enough; and I loved the library in my home town because it was one of those big marble buildings with card catalogues running up the middle of it. To get to the juvenile section you had to take an elevator which opened on both sides– something I had never seen before– and it was part of the whole library experience for me. Even today when I imagine a library from a scene in a book, that is the library I imagine.

Libraries of today are something more than they were when I was a child, though. The libraries I’ve been involved with, both here and in Knoxville, are more like community centers than they used to be. The Newport Library (and all of the area libraries, as far as I know) is about more than just books, although we have plenty of those. The Newport Library also has craft classes, story time for children, a children’s area with toys and coloring pages and special reading nook, and a program for teens that includes a book club, after school time, and lock-ins; there are computers that anyone can come in and use, for free, all day long if they want to and we’re not that busy. All types of people come to the library, too, and we don’t turn anyone away (unless they give us a problem.) We welcome all people who come through our doors and do the best we can to treat each person with the same friendly manner. It’s a welcoming place, obviously a place where people want to come, a place where people fee welcome and at home.

I find this striking because of the contrast with most churches today. Most churches aren’t centers of the community anymore and we have to work very hard to find ways to be relevant in people’s lives. 50 or 60 years ago the thinking was “if you build it they will come,” and they did come, for many years. But that isn’t working for us any more, and while the reasons are complex the contrast with the library is telling.

So what can we learn from our library neighbors?

For one thing, the library is open more than one hour per week. The library has regular hours when it is open, when patrons can come and get books or use the computer or whatever they need to do there, and multiple staff people on hand to help patrons when they need help. Churches, on the other hand, are rarely open unless there is an event for the members of the church; occasionally it will be open for “outsiders” but often only to fundraise or “to get people interested in us” or for a scheduled event. Most churches, while they may be staffed during week days, keep their doors locked, afraid of danger to the building and staff if strangers were to wander in.

And what would churches have to offer people who might wander in? Libraries have books to check out, computers to use, craft classes, story time and youth activities. They have basic office equipment such as fax machines and copiers and charge a minimal fee for their services. They have clean, modern meeting spaces that are easily accessible and easy to reserve. Churches have… big open rooms designed for a special purpose (worship.) Maybe a room where children could play– if the building were open. Office equipment that is protected and usually outdated, Wi-Fi that isn’t reliable. Special furnishings that are uncomfortable to sit on and are also protected and revered.

The library feels like a place of abundance.  The library has funding of course, from taxes, but must fight for that funding each year as budgets are cut and funds are diverted to other projects; and yet, the library finds a way to make its programs happen. The church often feels like a place of scarcity, fearful of spending, fearful of trying anything new, fearful of failure. Is this how God wants us to present ourselves to the world?

Libraries are often bustling with activity because they’ve identified their purpose in the community and they are focused on following through on it. Churches can take a lesson from this by finding a purpose that opens them to the community and the abundant life that God intends for God’s people.

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A Summer Walk Through the Labyrinth

June 10, 2014

As I did in the winter, I took a walk through the labyrinth with my camera on a recent early spring morning.

See “A Summer Walk Through the Labyrinth” at http://youtu.be/RF-dgoNMQP0.

 

labyrinth : round maze isolated on white