I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Friday, December 30, 2005

They're Closing the Berghoff

I heard a story last night on NPR about the closing of The Berghoff in Chicago. This, combined with the "renaming of the stores" to Macy's (I mean, of course, Filene's and Field's, among others) demonstrate the trend toward what I fear may be a staggering uniformity in the years to come. Sure, the Burghoff will house a catering business, but it probably won't sell the old menu! Yes, you can buy the same stuff at Macy's as you did at Marshall Field's. Still, there is something lost and that is diversity and history. Macy's isn't really a part of Chicago history, after, all. However, at least it is more interesting than everbodies new darling, Target. Incidentally, Chalice Chick has some things to say about these folks but I cannot seem to link to it...

The church, too, can show this tendency. Certainly it has in the past and many denominations strive for a certain uniformity in belief and worship. The advantage is that you feel comfortable. The disadvantage is that we don't go to church to feel comforted ALL the time. Also, you may not always feel like the religious version of a "Big Mac". Only the faces have changed and probably not by much when one visits churches that strive for sameness. This is enforced by the popular "growth programs" and, of course, from marketing intitiatives. Well, good luck, I guess. I don't think Eliot Church will be signing up for any of that soon.

We are, as I have mentioned before, in something of a marketing phase at Eliot. We are intentionally going it alone because of these issues. What we are discovering is that our primary consituency isn't so much people who identify with the UUA or UCC but the people who live in Natick. We are, it seems, putting the "community" in community church. At Christmas we sent a letter out to the community around our building to reach out and see what they thought about our congregation. We offered various ways of keeping in touch. We also asked for money to help defray the cost of our steeple project. Our steeple, the tallest structure in the nieghborhood, is a local landmark. Response has been good on all counts.

Who knows where our quest to be ourselves will take us...