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"old Churches" and "YOung Churches"

01/10/2019 02:54:55 PM


Rabbi Daniel Dorsch

One of my Christian colleagues recently explained to me the difference between young and old churches. Main Line Protestant Churches, he explained, are mostly “old churches,” while Evangelical and Non-Denominational churches are “young churches.”
To understand the difference, kook arayn: come and look at the crowds that make up the two prayer communities that meet next door to our synagogue. The Lutheran church, led by my friend Pastor Jin, has many long-time devoted, established attendees. The Evangelical group Sojourn, led by my friend Pastor Ernie, crowds our shared parking lot with new, young families during our religious school. I suspect that at LCI Board Meetings, the board discusses strategies for bringing in young families with children: because that’s what happens at an old church. At Sojourn meetings, I suspect they yearn for the desire and sense of stability that comes from attracting long term, devoted congregants: that’s what happens at old churches. In each instance, something is missing.
Reading through the back and forth game of ping-pong between Moses and Pharaoh in the Book of Exodus, I am reminded just how antithetical the idea of exclusively Old and Young Churches are to Judaism. In this week’s parasha, Pharaoh tries to cut a deal with Moses to let the Israelites go. Perhaps, he suggests, you will agree to go to worship in the desert with your men: but you will leave the women, children and livestock, behind. In a moment of brazenness, Moses doubles down in response. “We will only go,” he tells Pharaoh, “with our young and our old together.” (Exodus 10:9). Somehow, Moses seems to understand that a community separated from the whole is incomplete.
Perusing through a recent spreadsheet our lay leadership is currently utilizing to assess the ways members of our synagogue are engaging with our community, I am reminded that our individual needs are not always the same. This is especially true if you sort the grid by age. Many of us who are younger come here because we have a need to send our kids to our phenomenal schools. Others of us come for whitefish, egg salad, and comradery.
Yet to have an Etz Chaim, a tree of life, we must indeed be a tree with many branches. Moses teaches us that if we lose our young or our old we become incomplete. This is why it is imperative that we must never cease to be the kind of shul where everyone is valued and accepted for the gifts that they bring.
Mon, May 20 2019 15 Iyyar 5779