The question below concerns the personal character traits necessary for a happy and fulfilling life. What about the character traits of a faith community?

These same traits, and one more: an ability to let go of yesterday and allow tomorrow to be what God needs it to be.

I see faith communities being paralyzed by their yesterdays. Ways that worked in the 1950s and surely could work again. Memories of a “golden era” that continue to be held up as a standard – and implied judgment. Patterns of institutional life that stopped working decades ago, like the over-focus on Sunday morning worship and trying to keep clergy from being too assertive. Arguments that don’t end.

We are living in as desperate, dangerous and divided a time as I can recall, and yet some church folks are still debating the language of the liturgy and who’s entitled to be ordained. We need to move on!

We need to be throwing our doors wide open and pouring out into the streets to see how we can help the jobless and jaded, hurting and hungry, lost and lonely, and the defeated, discarded and disrespected.


Q: What is the most important character trait necessary for one to have a happy and fulfilling life and how can the mainline church contribute to that trait?

A: I doubt there is just one. But among the central traits are these:

  • Attention to the needs of others.
  • A personal dream that is compelling and uplifting.
  • Conscious contact with God.
  • Curiosity about life, people, and how things work.
  • Self-respect and the courage to be oneself.
  • An ability to be alone and at peace.

The mainline church – any faith community – can nurture these traits by proclaiming the Gospel that Jesus lived and spoke and by paying less attention to institutional imperatives. Also by providing opportunities to serve in a meaningful and personally stretching way. And by encouraging a spirit of self-sacrifice.

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