innovation and ministry.

18 Sep

This is a bit more of a personal post than usual. As I come up on the 25th reunion of my high school class, I am thinking about the amazing education I received, and how it has served me.

Some people are surprised when they find out that I have a Bachelors degree in Computer Science. And they become even more flummoxed when they find out that I was in the very first graduating class of one of the first STEM public magnet schools in the country, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, in Fairfax County, VA.

My spouse used to think it was strange that I take such pride in my secondary alma matter. But it is hard not to be proud to have been in that first class, particularly now that Newsweek has listed my school as THE top public high school in the country. Again. This is not an unusual distinction for the school.*

The detailed Newsweek article quotes Principal Evan Glazer sharing that the school is “preparing kids to go into fields that have yet to be invented.” A teacher is quoted as being excited about it being “a public school that allows us to try new things!”

Okay, you might be saying. So what? What does this have to do with anything except Dawn bragging?

Well, it turns out that my high school actually prepared me to be in the ministry, because this field is changing. Not as rapidly as technology, but it is changing in unprecidented and unforseeable ways.

There are two primary drivers for the changes that the church is seeing right now: timing and technology.

Phyllis Tickle points out that every 500 years, the church goes through a massive upheaval. Right now, she says, we are going through the Great Emergence. Watch the video for a quick summary of her arguments.**

Combine the timing issue with the radical changes in technology and in how we relate to one another due to social media, and church is not what it was even 25 years ago. There are a lot of folks who have written about this phenomena, I don’t have space to go over it here.

The point is that for a very long time, culturally speaking, church was about the same. Now it is not. This means that now, more than ever, we need leaders (lay and professional) who are willing to try new things, to experiment, to innovate. Leaders who will take the past, build upon it and then go in new places.

I don’t think I would have made a very good minister in the 1950s, or 60s, or even 1980s. But I think that my education and experience have predisposed me to be energized by these changes. So in many ways, I am doing exactly what my high school educated me to do 25 years ago. Who would have thunk it?


* The wikipedia article has a list of some of the many, many awards. As my spouse and I look into high schools for our kids, my standards are ridiculously high. And I think that ALL students should be able to have access to such an amazing opportunity.

**Granted, she is speaking particularly of the Christian Church, but as part of a tradition that is directly connected to Christianity, Unitarian Universalists cannot help but be impacted by these changes.

4 Responses to “innovation and ministry.”

  1. Trish Ramey September 19, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    A comment for old eyes… the font color you are using, coupled with the skinniness of the font, makes it hard for “old eyes” to read. I have to move my screen angle back and forth to try and enhance the contrast. Can you change the font to black and fatter? Trish and Del

    • Rev. Dawn September 19, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

      Thank you for letting me know. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to change it from my iPad, so it will have to wait a few days until I have access to a computer. I promise not to post much between now and then!!

    • Rev. Dawn September 22, 2014 at 10:23 am #

      Hi Trish – I could not change the font with the theme I had, so I am choosing a new theme that has heavier font. Let me know how this works for your “old eyes” – I actually like this theme better, I think, so I hope it works!

      • Del Ramey September 23, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

        The new theme is better in that the fonts are a bit larger, especially with wider “strokes”. When the stroke width gets down to about one pixel, it is hard on the eyes.

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