Another blue mailbox disappeared from my neighborhood this week.
No, I don’t think it was stolen by vandals. My guess it was stolen, er, removed by the United States Postal Service. In their own quiet way they were sending a message to those of us who live around here that we weren’t mailing enough first-class letters to make the stop worthwhile for the carriers. I wouldn’t mind it so much but it’s the fourth to go away; there’s only one left anywhere close to my house.
I’d call this a change I don’t believe in. And yet I feel the USPS’ pain—e-mail and cell phone texting have certainly made writing letters almost an old-fashioned nostalgia exercise. Online banking and automatic withdrawals mean fewer and fewer people pay their bills with a first-class stamp.
The pace of societal change is accelerated by the internet in ways nobody ever anticipated. Who would have thought that online news would threaten to put newspapers out of business? Our hometown daily, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has watched its paid circulation shrivel, while at the same time its (free) online readership has exploded.
Sagging demand for many kinds of goods and services is causing business contraction. When it affects other people you call them layoffs. When it hits your family it’s called a disaster. I know, of course, that this has been going on for millennia. Think of all the leather harness and saddle makers and livery stables who were put out of business by the automobile.
Those of us who work in the church better be ready to bend and change with the times. Not the message—the Gospel of Christ is non-negotiable. But I am speaking about our ways of gathering and organizing people and bringing them that great message.
Straight talk. Real hope.