Sorry about not having this up Monday morning… it just slipped my mind. Future FARf must be starting have memory slips.
Sunday, August 13, 2045
I just got back from a week in Atlanta. I’ve been active in the same church since Mrs. Fetched brought me to this place, before we were even married, and I’m still active now that “churchies” are pariahs in many places. I’m proud to say that we were an early affiliate of the Penitent Movement — a lot of people think that Penitent is its own denomination, but it’s really an affiliation that transcends denominations. The church that I’m a part of is Methodist; some Baptist, a lot of other mainline Protestant churches, some Catholic and even a few pentecostal and other “non-demoninational” congregations identify as Penitent.
Whatever the denomination, those of us affiliated with the Penitent Movement have an annual nationwide conference. Representatives from each church gather in various cities and have a nationwide teleconference, and it was my turn to represent our church this year. It worked out well for me; Kim and Christina made room for me at their place and I could walk outside and catch the shuttle to the conference, then spend a couple hours over at The Boy’s place each evening. In Atlanta, ironically, we rent out what used to be a megachurch building. The current owners have talked about starting a small wallyworld in it, but it hasn’t happened yet (and we’ve used the same place three years in a row now). We get a local market to deliver lunch, and people bring in various “filler” foods to round out a pretty decent spread. Most of us eat breakfast before and supper after the day’s agenda.
After you’ve been to a few of these conferences, you get a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen through the week: Monday is a get-acquainted fest, lots of welcome speeches and agenda-setting on the big screen, followed by working group sign-ups. On Tuesday morning, we (locally) evaluate how well service goals from year before were met, then present reports with other regions in the national teleconference through the afternoon. Wednesday is devoted to setting the new goals and theme for the upcoming year, then thrashing out how we’re actually going to implement them. On Thursday, we discuss whatever difficulties churches might be having in different regions — in some parts of the country, they have to deal with outright persecution, although lower-level hostility and plain indifference are much more common. Here, it used to be that non-Pentitent churches had it better than we did, but we’re all pretty much tolerated throughout the Old South now. Friday, we tie up loose ends (usually what’s left from the Wednesday implementation business) — and if we need to, carry that into Saturday. Fortunately, we wrapped up pretty well on Friday this year and I was able to spend Saturday with Kim and his family (and The Boy came over, too) before riding home today.
In Atlanta this year, we talked a lot about being a third of the way through the 70 years spoken of by The Prophet at the end of the junta, the collective judgement on all the churches for so many of them being obsessed with the “law” and paying only lip service to grace (and incidentally aiding and abetting the junta). As Atlanta was his “Jerusalem,” we were asked to share our thoughts with the rest of the national conference, about where we are in regard to that particular prophecy. We all like to think, anyway, that the Penitent churches are the one servant who “was serving the people and not abusing his authority,” as the Prophet put it. Indeed, the Penitent movement was built around that description.
We’ve even managed to “find favor with the people,” at least a little. The refugee issue, that came to a head in 2036, was the primary focus for our service for a couple of years… both with and without governmental cooperation. Even though the 29th Amendment made explicit the separation between church and state, the Supreme Court ruled that the intent was to “merely prevent one party from exercising undue influence over the other” and that coordination to prevent duplication of effort was not forbidden. Once the coastal refugees were resettled, we moved on to other things (some, like the 2040 focus on carbon re-sequestration, didn’t go so well). Lately, though, we’ve gone back to exploring the thorny issue of ministering to opt-outs. I talked The Boy into coming in on Wednesday afternoon to share his experience with the opt-outs, following the chautauqua mission of taking culture (of a sort) to where the people were. Next thing I knew, people started asking him tons of questions, and someone cut it into the national feed. He’s still well-known in the Retro Rage music scene, but I was surprised at how many people remembered his role in defusing the refugee situation, back when.
People both local and remote thought it was a great session. There’s still a lot of opt-outs — some estimates put their numbers over a million — and it’s clear that any effective outreach will have to truly be outreach… just like missionaries in Africa, we’ll have to go to them, live with (and like) them, and earn their trust. The Boy talked about how many opt-outs would opt back in if they could figure out how… I guess it’s up to the churches to help them find their way back.