My whale was a cat. My soil was a tree. My Church was a culture.
Unable to cope with any more news from devices about the virus careening around our planet, I went for a walk in one of Whidbey Island’s old-growth forests. My spiritual director had suggested it. She says I just get sullen and unpleasant when I read theodicy produced by religion – given that as I age, my willingness to listen to assurances about a mystery is about as welcome as a Jew listening to anti-holocaust theories. Really, we would rather just move out of earshot and have some ice cream. Or for me, some bacon.
On my walk, I came across these two new little saplings growing from an old, fallen tree-section. The image arrested my movement much the same way I react to a terrible accident alongside the road. A series of thoughts which tumble one to the other like jesters summer-salting for a king. A tree fell in the strong winds of the Puget Sound. The tree died. The tree rotted feeding seeds sprouting from a neighboring tree. New trees. New life fed from death. A cycle. An unstoppable cycle. I recently was told that Orcas began their earliest life-cycles millions of years ago walking on land, looking something like a large cat. Nature amazes me. But nature has a long view. It’s patient. I guess they liked swimming back then. Cats, I mean. It is so dangerous to be sure of things a few millennia old.
I had a coffee with a millennial the next day. The images of Harry and Sally (Yes, I named them. Don’t you name trees?) remained in my mind as we spoke of the church’s past, the church’s present and the church’s future. We marveled about the run patriarchy has had, regardless if done by men or by women newly in male roles. We celebrated the signs that patriarchy is falling, if slowly, under the winds of change. And we wondered what seeds might fall onto the rubble currently sheltering the chrysalis of whatever will one day replace a church no longer funded by pledges or attended by millennials or generations Z.
That on which we agreed was that something old has fallen and crashed and that many Boomers and their parents and grandparents are sad about that. We also agreed that people paid to be Church want church to exist. But church is now rotting, changing its power from domination to hospitality so we also agreed that seeds are falling on the moist log. And we wondered what the new saplings would be like for my great-nieces and nephews who are now younger than nine years old – “Generation Alpha.”
What will the church look like in 20 years? What will philanthropy look like? What will ecology look like? What will our climate look like? What viruses will thrive? And given technology and devices, what will our psyche look like?
A close friend was in despair today. He was worried about the state of the world. He had left the Church decades ago and now dances every Sunday with other GenX and Millennial friends in an old village hall by the Salish Sea. He asked me if we are all just really alone. I said “Yes. We are alone. But we are alone together, standing on death, next to water, in a kind of bright light, not made by humans. So it’ll be OK.” It’s really enough for me to be sure just of that.