Friday, March 9, 2012

And Then the Rules Changed

Rabbi Hayim Herring’s new book, Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today, is powerfully thought-provoking. He covers an array of vital contemporary issues facing synagogues, Jewish denominations and their leaders. And once again (or merely continuing to do so) prompting me to question the role of religious community, the relevance of my career, and whether/what I believe. Consider the following, from the book:

During the past three decades or so, six societal trends have reshaped many professions in a diverse range of industries. In this relatively short period of time, we have moved

  • from the age of organizations toward the age of networks;

  • from credentialed professionals toward avocational experts;

  • from hierarchical control toward individual autonomy;

  • from exclusivity toward inclusivity;

  • from monopolization of knowledge toward democratization of knowledge;

  • from assuming fee-for-service economy toward expecting a free-for-service economy (at least at a basic level)

Each of these trends has affected almost every for-profit and nonprofit organization. And as these six individual trends have interacted with one another, they have generated profound, exponential change, shaking the very foundations of organizations. (Herring, p. 9)

I wonder, what do these ideas have to say about the current state of flux in the American religious world? And more so – how will the religious community I serve, and choose to be part of, evolve as a result? Curious…


  1. Fascinating! I'm going to have to get this book - I'm already marinating on what you've written above....

  2. Fantastic! I loved Hayyim's last book "This House We Build" which focused primarily on synagogues at the cusp of this era. I'm curious to see where he goes in this book.

  3. Gallup shows a modest increase in attendance of mosques, synagogues and churches, from 2008-2010, though. And I think that is because what feeds us nutritiously in our spiritual lives I believe, is still found in communities and engaging in discussions with each other. I think we get fed in networks and social networks, but its the equivalent of eating a Taco Bell Chili Cheese Burrito. Tastes good, fills the belly, but only in the short term and isn't really quite as sustaining...

  4. Thanks for your comments! (um, Yair, careful - as "This House We Build" which is great, was written by Bookman and Kahn)

  5. May I comment from a different place? Christianity is completely immersed in this conversation and has been for a decade or more, as it has seen precipitous drops in interest in "institutional" religion. The only real growth in Xianity is in India, China and Africa, where 80,000 new persons claim faith as a Christian daily. That is revolutionizing everything. The current climate in USAmerica Xianity is to move out of the institution values of "membership and belonging" to "viral"/"organic" relationship and mission. The literature on this subject overflows my study as the Xian church recognizes itself to be on life support and it looks for new ways to express the Gospel in a world that will no longer come to sit in our pews.

    At a conference I attended last month, the struggle was expressed in the terms: "How can turn church into a verb?" "How can we make Christianity 'life on a mission trip?'" Or, to give you another illustration, my mentor tweeted he is speaking today on "The Coming Revival . . .& Why It May Start in the World, & Why It May Not Take in the Church As Is".

    This is a time for incredible reassessment of the role of clergy in the church, and the most likely outcome is that we will become obsolete. Such a profound thought... "And Then the Rules Changed". Shabbat Shalom

  6. Glad that you're finding the book helpful. I think that the times we're living in generate both anxiety and excitement. The question is, do rabbis and other clergy focus more on the anxiety or more on the excitement? The anxiety comes from our role displacement-having others do things that we've been accustomed to. The excitement springs from being able to ask, "What is it that we can now do that we couldn't do before?" While acknowledging some loss of traditional roles, we now have a chance to re-imagine how to add spiritual meaning to people's lives and add good to the world. Hayim