Thursday, July 17, 2008

Time to break free of the box ...

The lot in Minnedosa still sits vacant ... I've heard people say - "well, we'll have nice windows and a great piano ... but no where to put them ..."

I've heard other people say, "why both building it at all? We don't want to go there any more any way ..."

And I've lost track of the number of folks who have said to me that the outcome of my ministry in Minnedosa was NOT what they wanted ... "a shitty deal" was the latest label applied by a now former member of the congregation who said "they won't see a penny of my money now ..." Sadly, this is not the first time I've heard this ... and yet those voices are continuing to be ignored and overlooked ...

Aside from wondering where there is JUSTICE in any of this, I weep for what might have been ...

But, my role in the drama that is Minnedosa United Church and its attempt at rebuilding has drawn to a close. Despite pleas from many voices in the Minnedosa area to establish an independent congregation where they can worship and feel included, the time is fast approaching when I will close the back doors on a moving van and pull up my roots and leave the toxicity of Minnedosa behind ... I want to see these excluded, rejected and marginalized people included ... but the Greater Church in its infinite wisdom has chosen to marginalize me along with them, and cast us all out into the darkness in the hopes that the neat, tight and convenient story that the "good" folks of Minnedosa tell themselves will not be challenged ...

I can't help but wonder though - WHY ARE WE SO HELL BENT ON PRESERVING THE STATUS QUO? and WHY DON'T WE TRY TO REVISION THE CHURCH BEYOND THE REBUILDING OF A BUILDING THAT WILL INVOKE MEMORIES OF WHAT ONCE WAS, BUT THAT WAS LOST TO THE FIRE??

ALL over the world there are example after example of Churches facing the changing community around them by embracing that change and stepping outside the heavy wooden doors that keep our sanctuaries safe and comfortable, and meeting the community on their terms.

Today I read with interest a posting at "A Church for Starving Artists" that mused on the use of Church space, property and resources to be MORE than just a worship and meeting space for Congregations. How do we better utilize the resources we have was the underlying questions with Jan reflecting on WHAT WE COULD BE DOING. It's a very good and very eloquent posting well worth checking out ... (click here for the post)

I have recently explored examples where Church Congregations have chosen openly and willingly to rethink their physical requirements to move beyond the creation of under-utilized worship space. It begins with the decision to create a multi-use space that can be adapted for any number of uses.

It continues when you chose NOT to install fixed pews, but rather use seating that can be moved and altered easily, or even removed.

It reaches its culmination when the "welcome" sign that is hung on the door is NOT conditional and so amended with rules and regulations, but rather keeps the doors open and the building vital and alive to the community around it ...

The boldness of this way of envisioning church space is being found increasingly in groups like the Scottish Churches Housing Action who are finding amazingly creative ways of transforming Church space into usable HOUSING through out Scotland.

In Canada McClure United in Winnipeg and Parkdale United in Toronto and their Green Phoenix project stand as just two examples of what is possible when Churches are bold enough to accept their reality and begin to think outside the box.

And my absolute favourite example is St Matthew's Community Church (Anglican) on Maryland in Winnipeg has the audacity to propose building 21 affordable housing units INSIDE their sanctuary space to serve the people of the Spence Neighbourhood. Recognizing that they are a people out of space, in that they are a tiny worshipping congregation in a vast and cavernous building, they have brought in partner congregations to share their space, they have converted their basement to a dynamic and lively community centre, and now, recognizing a need that sits on their door step, they are seeking to create living space filled with housing within a historical and majestic building !!

What better Sacred Space can there be than housing for the homeless and those at risk ???

To me groups like Habitat for Humanity are creating sacred space with each house or housing unit they provide to a needy family ... The Church backed Westminster Housing Society in Winnipeg with its commitment to affordable and secure housing in the inner-city neighbourhoods is creating sacred space with each house and housing unit they renovate and create and offer to those in need ... AND Our Place in Victoria BC that provides food and shelter to the most vulnerable and marginalized is more of what Sacred Space is supposed to be than any example one can find under the auspices of the United Church ...

Yet in the majority of our Congregations, Minnedosa United Church included, there is a definite LACK OF VISION and COURAGE. Rather than embracing what will be, nostalgia kicks in, and what once was is recreated in a more modern efficient version ...

It's immensely sad ... a vacant lot sits on Main St in Minnedosa ... one segment of the congregation wants to build a recreation of the church that was ... one segment of the congregation sits bewildered and brutalized by the machinations that have transpired and lead to the dismissal of the minister ... and one segment of the congregation has simply thrown up their hands and walked away ... add to this a community that has failed to understand much less comprehend what has transpired ... members of the community who have actively engaged in creating, perpetuating and sharing toxic and untrue rumours, gossip and stories ... and too many community people for whom the last two and a half years are a familiar story in the life of Minnedosa and the United Church (a story that has been oft repeated and never dealt with in an open and transparent way) and you have a vacant lot that represents much more than just the loss of a building ...

The vacant lot is a loss of hope ... a loss of potential ... and for many a loss of faith ... looking into the teary eyes of a church elder for whom "the church" has been a central component of her life and hear her say - "I don't really care any more because this is NOT what faith is about ..." breaks my heart ... and perhaps most sadly of all - it would seem I am the ONLY one who cares enough to listen. The Vacant Lot is a loss of what could have been if fairness, justice and OPENESS prevailed ...

In today's church is would see that the status quo must be maintained ... what was must be preserved ... and the way things were must be continued ... change and transformation have no place here ... the Church leadership can not be proven WRONG.

And yet, every day the vacant lot where the Church once stood stands as a stark reminder that failing to embrace reality as it is, and thinking in new ways as we move into the future will merely make the Church increasingly irrelevant and unimportant ... we can wrap ourselves in the comfort of believing the story we tell ourselves - but as I've noted in my readings and reflections of Tolle - when it is the ego and the pain-body fueling the moment - the falsity of the story is never challenged ... and the truth is never set free ...

Thinking outside the box is happening ALL around us ... the call of faith is clear ... our challenge is to embrace that change and to step not just outside the box, but to leave the safe comfortable confines of the box far behind ... We don't need new sanctuary spaces ... we need sacred spaces where ALL people feel welcome and included, not just the chosen few ...

That is perhaps the hardest lessons for a Faith Community to learn ... I know that today in Minnedosa, there are many who understand it ... but those holding tightly to the reigns of power have yet to hear it, much less listen to it ...

But ALL of this is in the hands of the Spirit ... and the Spirit will come and recreate the Church, not as fragile human egos envision it, but as God does ... and that is perhaps the BEST NEWS OF ALL!!!

Come Holy Spirit Come!!!

.

2 comments:

MY OWN WOMAN... said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueVpCfPAog4


Hmmm, I wonder if this link will work here.

heartnurse said...

Well, you just wrote that sermon for Sunday. Go Preacher!