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A Time To Remember & Move On

Christians around the world celebrate All Saints Day on November 1. This is a day when we remember those who have died, and give thanks and praise for their witness. It is also a day when we attend to our grief and reflect on our finitude.

This year, Eden’s observance of All Saints Day will be extra special as we welcome the president of Pacific School of Religion to the pulpit, and as we welcome and embrace those whose loved ones have died.

Preparing for All Saints Day gives me pause. As I pull the funeral files from my credenza, and draft a list of names for the necrology I am flooded with memories, and reminded of my own sense of loss and the loss that others are experiencing.

I am also reminded of how Eden has changed during my tenure. Eden has changed not simply in physical appearance through the campus renovations, but we have changed demographically as members.

The Eden membership was 143 and the average age of a member was 70 when Stephanie and I moved to Hayward 13 years ago. Today, we are a congregation of approximately 200 members and the average person’s age is 50. In the fall of 2002, Eden’s membership included more than 50 people who had been members for more than 50 years. Today only 16 members have been members for 50 years or more.

Eden has been fortunate to welcome newcomers every Sunday during my tenure. At the beginning of this millennium, most newcomers joined the church within six months of their first visit. Today, by comparison, newcomers are slower to join and quicker to leave. Few, if any, join with the expectation that they will remain in the Eden area or as members of Eden for 50 years or more. In this way, our congregation reflects the larger culture in which only 35% of those who join a church these days remain active for more than five years.

Clearly the nature and meaning of church membership has changed. It is changing. And it will likely continue to change in the future.

We could bemoan these changes and pray for a return to the good old days, or we could imagine that God is doing something new in our midst, try to discern what that is, and get with God’s program. I choose the later. How about you?

Pastor Arlene