This is a fascinating story about a small liberal Congregational church in a Boston suburb that is seeing its congregation age and dwindle and sees the writing on the wall of their coming demise. So they decide to take a chance, sell the church, and open a storefront church with the intent of being more of a community center. It's a story of a lot of conflict, and there are no easy answers or satisfying resolution.
Internal strife had contributed to the congregational collapse that forced the sale of the old church. Sanctuary is too small to survive another exodus. They need to pull together, Paul thinks, and focus on the most important questions: Who are Sanctuary’s neighbors, and what do they need?
Amid all the frustration at church lately, Paul has been thinking about his parents, both gone a long time now.
His dad, the Rev. Norman Roberts, was a tall, balding man with a booming voice who hunted and fished with his congregants and gave a children’s sermon every week. Paul’s mother, Grace, led the women’s groups at church; in another era, she might have been a minister, too. They lived their faith. They were tolerant and loving of those who were not.
Their churches sometimes writhed with conflict. But they believed in church as a way of being in the world.
As a fairly conservative and orthodox Catholic, I think I can see the reasons why they struggle, yet I admit that many Catholic parishes suffer from similar problems and struggles, albeit on a different scale. It's a long read, but well worth it. Some of it may be that the world has changed and people are no longer expected to be churchgoers. Maybe that just means we need to start thinking more like the apostles did 2,000 years ago and leave behind some of our expectations and assumptions.