Writing for the Alban Institute, Sally Simmel asks one of the most important questions facing the Church:
Laity are those members of the church whom God has called to the church outside the walls of the church. In unison they might say, “We write the laws of our lands and invent new technologies to serve humanity. We know how to clone animals and humans and measure germs on Mars. We rear and educate children. We work in corporations, governments, and health care systems. We build roads and homes. We write and produce movies and TV shows. In those endeavors, we seek to practice our faith. We need the wisdom of faith through deeper theological reflection to help discern the how and why of it all.”
They might also say in unison that they are not theologians, while they in fact are doing theology. For the most part, that means they are not trained in theology for preaching, teaching, and Word and Sacrament ministry. That is a particular call. “Doing theology” does not merely mean studying tradition, doctrine, and Scripture so that one knows about those things. Rather, theology balances fact and theory with the lived experience of God each of us has. All experience has meaning and provides insight for the journey. To stay either in the academic mode or the experiential mode would deny the wholeness of each person, God, and the universe.
At a very early age, the people of God begin to speak to God, to recognize there is a God, even without fully understanding: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord…” Laypeople of all ages and cultures are searching for meaning and purpose. The church risks losing them if the only theological reflection available to them is the church school. A forty-three-year-old from the East Coast sums up some of the longing for meaning in life when she asks, “What is this deep longing I feel in spite of success and happiness? What is God’s purpose for me? How do I know when God is speaking to me?”