Rev. Melissa Cooper


Let's share.

Posts tagged innovation
#alwaysAnd: The Necessity of Multiple Realities

Both/and. It's a simple phrase. 

And yet, I find that most people in reality default to either/or rather than both/and

Our culture and society are built around polarities - male or female, Republican or Democrat, Coke or Pepsi, N*Sync or Backstreet Boys ... (oops is my Millennial showing?) This is how we're taught to see the world. Black or white, no gray to be found.

And yet, as we experience the world, there's a sense that we've been gaslighted. We are given these either/ors, and as we look around, we see a world full of gray. We see real world issues and realize that it's not as simple as yes or no, in or out, up or down. Reality is more complicated than that.

In the diversity training I lead, we talk about guidelines for healthy communication, and one of them is to "practice both/and thinking." This guideline is all about recognizing that multiple realities can be true at the same time. 

For example, my husband and I grew up both in rural Tennessee, but on opposite ends of the state. We are both only children, so for us, home was a place of peace. Home was a place where conflict wasn't a major player. Home was a quiet retreat. 

For most of our friends, however, home was not necessarily a quiet, conflict-free zone. Home was a place of chaos and turmoil, a place of noise and messiness. They had siblings. More children = more chaos. 

Neither of these realities is better than the other. Neither of these realities negates the other. Home means different things to different people. It's a both/and. 

As we face adaptive challenges in the church, we are going to have to become a church of both/and and not either/or. We will do this, or we will die.

That sounds pretty morbid, but it's true.

We are going to have to recognize that older ways of doing Christianity were not necessarily wrong, and that for some people, these older ways of doing church are still effective and needed in their lives. AND we need to recognize that those older ways of doing ministry no longer work for some people.

This is not necessarily about a generational divide. Rather it's about the idea that there are many ways of doing the same thing, and they can all be valid and coexist. It's not about right vs. wrong; it's about a multitude of ways to be the church to engage all of the children of God in their diversity.

There's a rule in the improv comedy world that, to keep a sketch going, when someone offers a new idea into the sketch, you never respond with a "no," or by shutting down the new idea they've introduced. Instead, you say "yes," then build on it, "AND." 

This is what the future of the church must be. We can either stand in our either/or camps and argue about who is right or wrong, or those of us who are called to move the church into its next phase can look at those who have gone before and say, "Yes! And..."

And those of us who are nurturing an older way of doing church can appreciate and affirm that "Yes! And ..." We can offer support to these new ways of doing things, and we can not feel threatened in the new methods and movements. 

We can be a both/and church.

Where have you seen examples of both/and ministry?