On October 1 and 2, I attended the eighth letter conference in Toronto. People from across North America gathered together to listen to some prominent (and not-so-prominent) Christians share their letters to the church today. Len Sweet, Pete Rollins, Ron Sider, and Shane Claiborne were among the more notable presenters. (By the way, the presentation I enjoyed most was by Janella Anema, a “little-known waitress” from Philly).
On the first night of the conference, Andy Crouch asked all the participants to write a short, one-sentence letter to the church of toady and share it with one person that we didn’t come with. My letter said something about being what the church was meant to be and helping stamp out injustice. Clearly, it was worth remembering. I shared it with an older woman who was across the aisle from me. Her letter was blunt and somewhat depressing–she didn’t seem to have much faith in the church. After I shared my letter, she said, “You’re young.” I asked her what she meant and she went on about how she isn’t very positive about the future of the church. I felt like she’d given up on the church. In a cynical way, she told me to “stay idealistic.”
What? Aren’t we all supposed to be idealistic? What about hope? What about the hope that God is at work in the church? Then I thought, idealism isn’t a fault–it’s a gift. It’s a gift that has been given to the young and can be sustained throughout life. Will we listen to the idealism of young people? I certainly hope so. They can remind us all to stay idealistic.