Inactivity & The Manhattan First Ward Choir

March 30, 2006 | 16 comments
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I just checked, and my last post on T&S was in January. Although I have never experienced a period of prolonged inactivity in my Church life, this posting drought has caused me on more than one occasion to reflect on the state of mind of “believing inactives.”

As I use the term here, “believing inactives” are a subset of all inactive members. Believing inactives accept, and often live by, most of the teachings of the Church, but they do not attend services or hold a calling. In many instances, their failure to attend is not the result of any particular negative experience with the Church. They are not motivated by an objection to any person or practice in the Church. Their inactivity just happened — perhaps because of a move or a job that required them to work on Sunday or the death of a spouse — and it has become habitual.

My blogging inactivity was the result of preoccupation with other matters that seemed more pressing. I was not disenchanted with T&S or upset by any of my co-bloggers or commentators. But as time passed, I found that the thought of posting became increasingly daunting. Why?

Two reasons come to mind. First, posting on a blog is a relational experience, and my relationships with commentators have become attenuated. In my experience, blog-based relationships are more fragile than real-world relationships. In the first year or two of T&S’s existence, I felt part of the community here. By not posting, I have distanced myself from that community and deprived myself of some shared experiences. To begin posting again requires me to re-insert myself into an ongoing conversation, and that can be scary.

Second, a blog is a cooperative enterprise, in which the bloggers and commentators all contribute. If I am going to post something, I want that contribution to be viewed as valuable. When I was posting consitently, the value of any single contribution was not a weighty concern because I felt that the collective value of my participation was sufficient to excuse an occasional dud of a post. Coming out of inactivity, however, the bar seems higher. On several occasions during the past few months, I have begun to draft a post only to discard it as insufficiently interesting or worthwhile.

So, what pushed me over the edge and caused me to write this post? Well, it certainly wasn’t that fact that this inactivity angle was a killer idea that would “wow!” the T&S community. No, not that. I was prompted to write this post by the Manhattan First Ward Choir.

Last weekend, I was in New York City with my two oldest children, and we attended the sacrament meeting of the Manhattan First Ward. It was my first time in the Manhattan Chapel, and I was impressed by the size of the chapel and the congregation. (I am not sure what I expected, but it was smaller than what I saw.) We heard excellent talks on the Restoration, but for me, the choir stole the show.

As they sang, my thoughts turned to my co-bloggers (Kaimi and Greg) who at one time lived and attended church in Manhattan. I also thought of Kristine, who has enriched all of us with her posts about music. And I wondered whether any of our regular commenters were sitting in that congregation, listening to that beautiful choir (we seem to attract a disproportionate number of New Yorkers). In short, the choir triggered memories of a community that I value, and those memories in turn sparked a desire to overcome my reticence, to reintegrate myself in that community.

You’re on notice.

16 Responses to Inactivity & The Manhattan First Ward Choir

  1. Randy B. on March 30, 2006 at 5:42 pm

    Hooray!

  2. John David Payne on March 30, 2006 at 5:50 pm

    Oh, no! The G-Man is back! My dreams of a coup de blog are dashed! My reign of terror is over before it is even begun!

    Back to the old drawing board…

  3. D. Fletcher on March 30, 2006 at 5:54 pm

    I directed the choir in the Manhattan First Ward for 11 years, in a 5 year period from 1987-1992, and then again from 1998-2004.

  4. Gordon Smith on March 30, 2006 at 5:59 pm

    D, I don’t know anything about music, but I do know something about traditions and culture, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that great choirs are a tradition in that ward. Things like that usually are not one-off events.

    John, you had a good run.

    Thanks, Randy.

  5. Jim F. on March 30, 2006 at 6:11 pm

    Gordon, as one who has had more than one spell of blogging inactivity–were it not for the felt need to post my Sunday School lessons, there would probably have been more of them and they would have been longer–I understand well what you are saying. But it is good to have you back.

  6. danithew on March 30, 2006 at 6:26 pm

    Darnit Gordon. I was in the same building on Sunday. It would have been nice to meet you. :)

  7. DKL on March 30, 2006 at 6:39 pm

    My work here is now done. (I just knew you’d come back once I started commenting here again.)

  8. Gordon Smith on March 30, 2006 at 7:32 pm

    Thanks, Jim.

    Danithew, I thought about announcing on the blog that I would be there, but I was afraid no one would remember who I was without a trip to the archives. Yes, it would have been nice to meet you. It won’t be my last trip to NY, so I will be more forthcoming next time.

    DKL, it’s either coincidence or Divine intervention, not my design. Though probably fortuitous. ;-)

  9. DKL on March 30, 2006 at 8:36 pm

    I understand, Gordon. If that’s what you need to tell yourself in order to feel comfortable with your return, then I’m cool with that.

  10. Logan on March 30, 2006 at 9:59 pm

    Gordon, I know exactly what you mean. Especially by “In the first year or two of T&S’s existence, I felt part of the community here.” So, for old time’s sake, and as a fellow inactive, I’ll jump in and say that I, too, am sorry I didn’t know you were in New York. Let a brotha know next time!

  11. Phouchg on March 30, 2006 at 11:05 pm

    “believing inactive” describes me perfect. I hold no antagonism to the church or its members, but I am just bored with it. I have tried for the past 10 years since my conversion to belong, but I am definitely a square peg in the round hole that is mormon culture. I suspect I will be inactive for quite a while, and I think the “believing” part may be fading away also. I have started to read some writings of the church of my birth (the church of Rome) and while there are some problems there, it is comforting to look back at where I came from (and where my entire family is).

    Who knows what the future will bring?

  12. Guy Murray on March 30, 2006 at 11:18 pm

    Nice to see your name again Gordon next to the “byline”–looking forward to more.

  13. Gordon Smith on March 31, 2006 at 12:24 am

    Hey, Logan! Nice to hear from you again! Maybe it’s time that you re-activate, too.

    Thanks, Guy.

    Phouchg, I am sorry to hear that you feel bored with the Church. I have heard that sentiment expressed on T&S from time to time, and I don’t know of a quick fix, but I hope that you find a fix, nonetheless.

  14. Patriot on March 31, 2006 at 4:19 pm

    Welcome back! Seems like the trip did you some good, brought back some wind to your sails perhaps?

  15. Christian Y. Cardall on April 4, 2006 at 7:59 pm

    Gordon, as an encore, how about a post on “unbelieving actives”?

  16. Kaimi Wenger on April 5, 2006 at 5:47 pm

    Gordon,

    It’s good to see you back on the blogs, my friend. I’m glad that you thought about me, while hanging out at my old digs. (By the way, I just learned that I’m going to be teaching Bus Orgs next semester – so you may be hearing a lot more from me in the near future! :) ).

    Oh, and if you didn’t get to hear D. Fletcher play the organ, you need to make another trip to the city.

    Logan,

    Nice to see you around here again, too! You were one of the early stalwarts – on lots of editions of the “most commenters” back when we kept those numbers. How’s life in Brooklyn?