The Age of a Congregation

This evening, we went to Shabbat/Purim services at our old congregation, Temple Beth Torah. It was odd visiting them again. The people were the same (but older)–this reflected the overall aging of the congregation. I was also struck by how many little things I started when I was there doing the newsletter or religious practices were still in place. But I think the biggest observation came in talking with the visiting Rabbi. He mentioned how it was nice being a visiting Rabbi, because he didn’t have to try to change the congregation to what he wanted it to be–he could come and go without the pressure.

It was then that it hit me. Not only were many of the congregants senior citizens, but the congregation itself was a senior citizen. I mean this in the sense that a senior gets set in their ways: they have their habits, likes, and dislikes. They know what has worked for them over the years, and they don’t want to change it. Change at their age is uncomfortable. This congregation has found their comfort zone. They don’t need someone to come in from outside to fix it. When I was there, that’s what we were trying to do: bring it into the modern era. But it didn’t want to go there–it was happy where it was. Now I understand what I didn’t understand then, and why our noble experiment didn’t work.

It was a nice visit, but I think we’ll stay where we are. Although we’re currently in a congregation that’s older in term of chronological age, the philosophical age of the congregation is much younger, for it recognizes it needs to move with the times to serve its congregants. That’s a good thing.