Technology. Technology which feeds on itself making more technology possible. The time lag between the appearance of a creative, feasible idea, its practical application, its diffusion throughout society, and its generation of new creative ideas, grows ever shorter. The pace of change quickens proportionately. Ideas are put to work ever faster. And, if technology is the great engine for change, knowledge is the fuel. The crux of the acceleration process of change in our society is that the engine of technology is being fed richer and richer fuel every day. And, it would seem virtually impossible to stop the pace change.
Is the firestorm of change affecting the church? It certainly is. The accelerating process of change has taken the Christian church by surprise. Normally a rather conservative institution anyway, the church in American was first battered by the loss of confidence in it as an institution by those Americans cast adrift from traditions and references. Then, following the conclusion of World War II, it was often physically deserted when its members joined the massive migration to the then recently created suburbs. The flight to the suburbs and the-resulting economic blight also blighted the future of thousands of churches. Some, to survive, joined the exodus and moved to the suburbs with their people. Others, hung on grimly waiting to see where the future would take them.
Watching their membership erode and neighborhoods deteriorate, many were unable to cope at all — closed their doors and died.
In Stamford, we did not escape the upheaval of change. In fact, the city has seen massive changes. It now can be said, I believe, to have gotten its physical changes under control.
However, let us review momentarily, an unusual series of slides which graphically illustrate just how· massive these physical changes to our city have been.
(Review aerial slides showing changes)
Other factors in change has a tremendous impact on our city. Among them, the corporate exodus from NYC. (slides)
They brought taxes, more business and changed our city. Strong population growth brought the need for new municipal facilities.
Where are we now — as a city and as a church?
The great majority of Stamford will remain the same or at least change only in relation to unplanned market conditions. However, as a church we are located physically in the perimeter of one of the country’s largest redevelopment projects.
Let’s go over the plans for the new downtown momentarily so that you can be more aware of what’s in our future here. I think it will be obvious that our church, after hanging on for years while others moved to greener pastures, will now find that the potential for its own growth is limitless. That the people are coming back to it, at least in proximity. That, perhaps its biggest challenge now is not simply how to survive, but how to adapt itself to provide the Christian services and programs which will be needed as the future approaches.
Stamford is not unique in this regard, cities across the country are being affected by a turnabout in potential.
In a recent special study, the Downtown Idea Exchange notes the following:
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