Every place you looked or listened the past few days there was one major topic – Downton Abbey – as season 3 kicked off Sunday night. And the audience gets larger for this period drama /soap opera. We are hooked on the life and “trials” of the gentry intermingled with the tribulations of domestic staff that wait on their every need and whim trying to give them the “perfect” life of the leisure class. One Facebook post today wondered how one could take seriously people whose main concern was whether they were wearing the right tie to dinner.
Serving now in a downtown church in an Ohio River town I understand the comment. But having served in town and suburban churches before I also realize that for many while the grandeur and accents are different even in this modern informal era we can be focused on things that really do not matter. In one parish several members of the congregation were quite vocal with my wife about her not wearing make-up, or the fashionable clothes that they liked. Another congregation early in my career worried about getting the “right” kind of people to join the congregation and tended to ignore those who were not upwardly mobile.
Looking at Downton Abbey as an institution it seems primarily focused on preserving the past into the future. Tradition for the sake of tradition. In my downtown church we have come to realize that we must reinterpret and revision the past if we want to survive into the future. We have to find what it is we value from the past and see how we can bring those things into a new future. – now reinterpreting it and transmitting the values into the future.
It is all about our view and our values. Do we best move into the future staring into the rear view mirror at what has always been? Is what we value a living legacy that can help share the future into more closely resembling what God would have the world to be? Or do we value what has been and is most comfortable for us, or at least less intimidating than a future that we have to shape?
So as we enter 2013 a question that will keep me thinking for a long while is what is it we really want Downton or Downtown?