I have come to deeply appreciate the name of our church and the wisdom of those who were behind its naming. A Middle English word meaning ‘dawn’ or ‘first light,’ dayspring first appeared in the 13th century. Clearly the term is laden with a sense of hope and promise. A U2 refrain comes to mind: “It’s a beautiful day / Don’t let it get away / It’s a beautiful day.” The translators of the King James Version of the Bible, published in 1611, applied the term ‘dayspring’ to Jesus in Zechariah’s prophecy toward the beginning of Luke’s Gospel. In the early 20th century, W. B. Yeats wrote of “the dayspring of their youth,” referring to the beginning of a new era or order of things.
Do you ever wonder about the health and future of the church at large? The United Methodist Church isn’t alone in its 50-year-long membership decline. Millennials (ages 18-35) continue to leave the church in alarming numbers. Their stated reasons: it’s homophobic, anti-science, exclusivist, hypocritical and judgmental. In his book The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus, Robin Meyers writes:
“Now for the good news: the church of Jesus Christ in the Western World is in terrible shape. That’s right—the good news is the bad news—and that’s good news. Why? Because, according to the distinguished scholar of religion Phyllis Tickle, apparently about every five hundred years the church holds a sort of giant rummage sale. It must decide what goes and what stays, what is dispensable and what is irreplaceable. Five centuries after the Protestant Reformation, we find ourselves passing through precisely such a time. Think of it as a kind of spring cleaning. We are sorting through our theological stuff and asking painful and disorienting questions about where it came from, what it’s worth, and why the once lucrative market for creeds and doctrines seems both depressed and depressing.”
As a progressive church, I like to think that Dayspring is helping to usher in a new era of Christianity, one that is open, inclusive, non-exclusivist (honoring other paths to the sacred), justice-oriented, and faithful to the person and vision of Jesus, “the dayspring from on high [who] hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (KJV Luke 1:78-79). May it be so!