We don't need scientific studies to know that, generally speaking, most of us do not like change.
When it comes to changing or modifying a cherished religion, we like it even less. The scope of discomfort and fear multiplies.
There is a kind of dynamic tension in religion, particularly in communal worship, between the need to reform or reinterpret rituals and theology versus a strong desire to maintain the traditions of what practitioners do and believe.
Religions, then, must balance change and continuity since both are needed if the faith is to survive.
The question is a simple one: Can the tension that exists between tradition and change be a healthy, creative force which can enhance our spiritual experience?
My branch of progressive Judaism is dealing with change in the form a new prayerbook.
We have a special high holy days prayerbook for the Jewish New Year services and for the Day of Atonement. Each year we bring out the same special prayerbook which has been, in various editions, in use for almost a hundred years.
I spent last week in Manhattan at a special conference for clergy on how to use this new prayerbook for the coming High Holy Days services.
In addition to discussing how our congregations would react, we rabbis and cantors spent time examining our own reactions to the new prayers, gender neutral translations of God language from the Hebrew and other material, including contemporary poems and ancient texts which we've never used in communal worship.
Some experience the old prayerbook as a long-time friend, one they loved and read as children, as young adults and, finally, as seniors. That familiarity is a powerful force in connecting them to their religious roots.
But how can we ignore the changes all around us -- changes that affect how we see ourselves because of gender, race, war or a deepening understanding about the diversity of our world?
The quandary is this:
If religions abandon their most cherished traditions for the sake of newness, then religion has lost its memory.
If religion does not adapt to a changing world and speak to new generations of worshippers, then it has lost its relevancy. Think of how technology has transformed houses of worship. Many congregations use multi-media presentations or stream their services live.
In the end, life is about adapting to change.
Part of me will be sad to bid farewell to the old prayerbook, an old friend I have used for over thirty years. The book has become a member of my spiritual family.
At the same time, there is something exciting and invigorating about the new prayer book, about welcoming a "new friend" that manages to carry on traditions but with a new look and a new direction
Religious identity is a fluid and should never become so entrenched in routine that it looses its relevancy and energy.
The new prayer book could well spark a heightened of awareness of ideas that we now simply read through without a real focus on what the words mean.
In any house of worship, the challenge is to delve into prayer books and decipher what their inner message means to us.
If we ask such questions, we hope God will listen more intently to us.
And isn't that what prayer is all about?
Columnist Rabbi Brad L. Bloom is the rabbi at Congregation Beth Yam on Hilton Head Island. He can be reached at 843-689-2178. Read his blog at fusion613.blogspot.com and follow him at twitter.com/rabbibloom.