Sunday, October 01, 2006

Negotiating Change

Ultimately, the fall season serves as a transition between the summer and winter. Here in Minnesota, the latter can prove to be long and strenuous so soaking up the beauty of these lingering sunny autumnal days is very important. Learning to negotiate transitions is never easy. Victor Turner, in his research, spoke of the opportunities that are presented in these "in-between" times--what he called liminality.

In the reflection on today's Gospel lesson at the Saturday evening vigil last night, the reading spoke of how Jesus challenged his disciples with new ways of thinking--a paradigm with which, the gospels suggest, they had difficulty coming to terms. In fact, St. Mark uses this entire mid-section, in chapters 8-10, as a kind of lacuna, or "in-between" time, to set up the long passion narrative which follows. In many ways, he seems to be suggesting, Jesus and the disciples find themselves in a liminal spot. Is it possible for the disciples to move beyond their own cultural and restricted worldview?

One of the reasons I am fascinated with 16th-century Britain is because, in the course of just three generations, a radical reconstruction of religious culture occurs which must be negotiated family by family, and parish by parish. In his study a generation ago, Anthony Esler dubbed the third of these generations the "aspiring Elizabethan younger generation." It included all the leading lights of the English Renaissance, from William Shakespeare to Edmund Spenser, Lancelot Andrewes to John Dunne, Philip Sidney to Christopher Marlowe, Robert Cecil to Francis Bacon. These outstanding representatives flourished under the significant shifts of power that took place from Edward VI to Mary to Elizabeth I. And, under the latter, they received their education and went on to perpetuate the fruits of the late Medieval period which had preceded them, couched in the new paradigm of modernity.

My own sense is that I find myself, just short of age 50, in the middle generation--having grown up a "boomer" who challenged the status quo, but anxious to hand on to the next generation the best of the Christian Tradition. My concern is that "the baby not be thrown out with the bath water"; that a reversion to total subjectivity couched in emotion and egocentrism not occur. I am not overly pessimistic, but I think that finding ways to reach this enthusiastic and passionate generation (using tools with which they feel comfortable) is essential. If this can occur, this "in-between" time in which we live may yet be seen in retrospect as wonderfully productive--providing new ways of understanding old wisdom. The key will be successfully negotiating the divide between old and new in a way that affirms the best of the old and the excitement of the new.