Listen To Article
by Stacey Midge
Jes Kast-Keat is away today. We welcome guest-blogger Stacey Midge. Stacey serves as an Associate Minister at the First Reformed Church of Schenectady, New York. Her areas of ministry focus are mission, community engagement, and youth and young adult ministry, and she is particularly interested in how individual and collective faith is lived out in increasingly secular society. Stacey’s blog and other information are available at staceymidge.com
“It’s a revolution!”
That was the last sentence the young man shouted to me, as he trotted jubilantly down the sidewalk in search of more Pokemon. He and I had only a brief conversation, when the presence of over fifty people in our church parking lot prompted me to get out of my office. I pulled up my own Pokemon Go app, but I confess that my understanding of it is pretty limited. Mostly I just wanted to wander among these people who have appeared as if from nowhere to take over the lot for several hours each evening. They are a peculiar mix of folks you would never see together anywhere else, spanning age, gender, skin color, and socio-economic status. A man cheerfully offers free phone charging while selling sodas and snacks. The atmosphere is mellow, with small clusters of people milling around, casually chatting—until someone spots a rare Pokemon, and the chase is on. Last night we had Cloysters in our cloister, which was a big hit even if most missed the joke.
The sudden Pokemon obsession is a strange juxtaposition with the current tide of U.S. culture. Violence seems unending. The rhetoric becomes more hostile, the positions more entrenched. Personally, I’ve been in a spiral of rage and fear. Who will be the next to die? When will the tensions hit the breaking point to all-out war?
Even in the Church, we are painfully divided, both between and within denominations. This year’s General Synod of the Reformed Church in America seemed on the verge of parting ways over irreconcilable differences. I know other communions face similar problems, and some have already split over the cultural questions of our time. Even if we don’t break up, shrinking membership numbers may cause us to question the future of the church.
I have so little hope some days, for this world in which we are always killing each other, for this church which has such a meager and mixed witness to that world. I joke that total depravity is sometimes the only thing that makes sense to me, but like all good jokes, this one is a truth dressed in a smile. The struggle for me is to remember that depravity—the brokenness that affects and infects all of creation—is not the final word. That rift is merely the beginning of where grace begins to fill and heal us.
Just outside the doors of my church, people are beginning to gather again. Many of them are the exact demographic that our churches can never seem to reach, but here the much-sought millennials mingle with exuberant children and bemused senior citizens. The only things they’re shouting at each other are, “Hey, did you find this one?” A cranky neighbor calls the cops, but when they arrive, they just chat with the Pokemon seekers, and for a moment, I can glimpse a world in which relationships between law enforcement and the community are not tainted by distrust and systemic bias. Another young man has begun to speak loudly, his arms spread wide over the crowd. “Look at this! Look at all of us together in one place, doing the same thing, even though we’re so different!”
And I think, maybe, it could be a revolution.