Sunday, July 29, 2012

Really??? The United Church makes the headlines again ...

This weekend, Globe and Mail Columnist Margaret Wente once again takes aim at the United Church of Canada, and dubs us and other more liberal denominations as irrelevant ...

My first response was "Really? Again?"

Then I read the article and I wondered yet again, why the media publishes articles about the United Church and manages almost EVERY TIME to interview people within this vast and diverse denomination, who are not really that reflective of the Church or its leadership.

There are those folks out there who do well at getting press coverage and getting their ideas and opinions out there, and in the process are deemed "reflective of the United Church." But when I read yet again, a clergy person who expresses a negative opinion of something as central and basic as belief in God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit I have to wonder what United Church they represent.

This past year, our congregations did a line by line study-conversation of the documents of faith that are part of the revisit and reframing of our beliefs as a Denomination. Over and over we commented on how the older pre-1968 words were problematic in embracing and reflecting our modern beliefs. But overarching that conversation was a firm and unwavering belief in God, and the basic tenets of the Church ... God, the Resurrection, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the transformative power of the Holy in our lives and in our world ... the words may vary, but the faith does NOT.

We spoke of the power and the necessity of prayer.

We spoke of the power and centrality of community.

We spoke of how our faith effects everything we are about as we live and move in our circles of family, friend and community.

We spoke of how what we believe colours and inspires our choices and actions.

We spoke of how being Believers motivates us to support the local food bank, offer support to our neighbours, opt to support outreach programmes and initiative, and be active and involved in our community.

We spoke of how living our faith means being open to sharing it with others through worship services, outreach dinners, weekly gatherings, the presence at the Farmers' Market and a dozen other things we do over and over and over ...

Is the Church irrelevant ... to some ... but as even Ms Wente notes, there is a spiritual hunger out 'there', and it our responsibility as a believing and vibrant Church to open our doors to new people, and invite them to become part of the conversation.

AND, I will go out on a limb and say BOLDLY and UNAPOLOGETICALLY, that 99% of that task rests on the shoulders of the Clergy. It is our responsibility as clergy to provide a passionate, enthusiastic, and faithful (not too mention Faith FILLED) leadership that inspires our people to dream and hope, and equips them intellectually, mentally, emotionally AND spiritually to go out  into the world and envision ways of sharing their faith.

It is NOT about the cult of personality that see Pastors drawing in waves of people enamoured by the prosperity gospel or some simplistic reading of the Scriptures, but rather it is ALL about COMPETENCE!!!

We need clergy who care about more than their pension and their next cheque.

We need clergy who are not marking the days to retirement.


Too many clergy are bland milque toast in their preaching and in their presence ... and too many clergy and leaders are SO steeped in the ways of the Church, that they are truly out of touch with the real world ... what we need is a diversity ... passion ... enthusiasm and a HUGE dose of living vibrant faith.

I can count on my facebook at least a dozen clergy friends who are incredibly competent and capable and amazingly passionate in living their faith - almost everyone of them begins and ends their work in prayer, and none of them undervalue the necessity of the Church to change and grow and embrace the leadership of the Spirit. They ARE believers and not surprisingly, none of them have ever been interviewed by mainstream media about what is wrong with the Church - and THANKFULLY, almost everyone of them is willing, able and courageous enough to express their take on what is wrong with the Church we all continue to call home.

I can speak only for myself, but I am willing to bet, that everyone of them continues to share in the ministry of this Church - This UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA, that we call home because everyday they encounter amazing people who inspire them and remind us that we are not dead yet, and that with the presence and love of the Holy Spirit Resurrections loom and bloom around us every single day.

Thanks for folks like Adam, Barb, Nick, Audrey, Phil, Clare, Cheryl-Anne, Darren, Brian, Bill, Bob, Gord, and dozens of others - the Untied Church of Canada is alive and well, and STILL living what it believes.

In short Ms Wente, and folks like David Ewart are WRONG.

The Church is still relevant - and our willingness to embrace social causes while living our belief with honesty and integrity and passion is what WILL change the WORLD!!!!

Stay tuned ... we've ONLY JUST BEGUN !!!!!


Sharron said...

As usual you speak from the heart. If you were still at "our" church, we would be there too. Miss you every time I read your posts. (that means every day)

Anonymous said...

One thing that never seems to change about Churches, any church, is the compulsion to push the guilt button.
Why not simply acknowledge that despite best efforts by churches and their leaders, secular society simply doesn't find what churches preach and teach as believable. Why the need to blame and slag your colleagues?

Margery said...

I was also disappointed, though not surprised, at the content of Ms. Wente's column, and I appreciate your reply to it. There was another good reply in the Victoria Times Colonist,and if you haven't seen it you can read it online.

I disagree with you on one point. I do not think that the clergy are 99% responsible to open doors to new people and invite them in, or to be the primary examples of faithful living. Clergy should do those things, but so should the lay people of the church. The lay people hire the minister to do a particular job, which includes pastoral care and teaching and inspiring them in their Christian walk. And however good the minister is, one sign of a healthy congregation is that if the minister had to leave suddenly, the congregation would continue as a faithful Christian community, providing leadership from within until able to call someone else.