The Emerging Spirit project will officially end on December 31, 2010.
As part of the closing of the project we gathered those who had presented workshops, under the banner of the project, from all across the country. Not all could attend, but 35 gathered at Church House November 23-24, 2010. This reflection formed part of the closing worship.
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During the past few years we have been proclaiming that the prime story of our time is not that the church is dysfunctional or in decline but that God is at work and inviting us to write a new chapter in the story of God’s people.
We have used, until it wilts from exhaustion, the quote from Loren Mead:
We are at the front edges of the greatest transformation of the church that has occurred for 1,600 years. It is by far the greatest change that the church has ever experienced in America; it may eventually make the transformation of the Reformation look like a ripple in a pond.
If it is true that we are being called forward, it will not be the first time that we, as the people of God, are called to be on the move. Our earliest stories are of a people on the move.
In a couple of weeks I am to begin a series of presentations named "Stepping Further Out" (Ottawa - Oct 27; Calgary - Oct 30; Vancouver - Nov 6). As a way of summarizing the past I am flirting with these paragraphs. I wonder though whether it is too harsh, not tough enough or just true. I'd appreciate any comments. Thanks.
Three years ago, the situations of The United Church of Canada and General Motors had a lot in common.
Although we made gestures, in the form of motions and policy formation, and talked a lot about innovation we did not really appreciate the depth and speed of a rapidly changing context. We operated with varying degrees of a sense of entitlement, our dealers/paid accountable leaders had grown accustomed to a certain degree of “loyalty” from their customers/parishioners and were fundamentally confused by this new reality.
Part of the trouble with Emerging Spirit was not in its mandate or vision but in failing to appreciate just how difficult it is for local leadership to make significant shifts in a congregational culture. We probably should have known better - and maybe even did - but the timeframe was compact and necessitated certain choices.
By and large leaders were sympathetic to the project's analysis, message and call to radical hospitality. The challenge, in reality, lay in trying to balance the cost in time and energy it would take to engage that question with all the other voices demanding attention. No one says that improving a ministry of hospitality is a bad thing but where does it fit in the lineup of things we should do, like looking at the governance system, renovating the worship service, training leaders, meeting the budget, visiting the sick and doing all the things necessary to keep an old way of being church on its feet while being open to something new. For many there just wasn't time or energy even though we heard 'Amens' from their lips and spirits. (Part of me is still not convinced that making hospitality a priority really takes as much time as it does a commitment but more of that in another blog. For now, I concede the point that it takes time which leaders feel they do not have.)
The modern age was ushered in by the Enlightenment (mid-1600s to early 1800s). One characteristic of the Enlightenment framework was a rejection of tradition and religious sources of authority in favour of reason and knowledge. Over time, the modern age became wed to the idea of progress and the conviction that science had the ability to make things bigger and better and to solve any problem that arose. The deep assumption was that if and when we could control the natural world we would continue to grow in wealth, health, and leisure.
In the modern age religion became private - a personal matter between ourselves and God, a principle enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Reason and knowledge were part of the public realm - this is the time of the rise in public schools, universities, political parties, as well as capitalism. In the modern age we sought certainty, freedom, and progress.
The Christian church seeks to be a community rooted in faith and engaged in the world.
We root ourselves in faith through worship, spiritual practices, caring for each other, and learning together. We yearn to share our faith with those we love and with a world that is hungry for spiritual food. We want our own lives to have meaning, to make a difference for good in God's world.
Share is a website which offers how-to advice on starting, developing, and sustaining fresh expressions of church based on shared experiences. Sponsored by Fresh Expressions and ChurchArmy, two organizations based in the United Kingdom which work toward the development and renewal of Christian community, the Share site is a resource for those involved with innovative expressions of church.
Among Share's growing list of resources includes a helpful overview of café-style churches which are growing in popularity in many places. Share looks at a variety of café / church hybrids, including café-style events on church premises, Christian events in commercial cafés, commercial cafés run by Christians, and doing mission within existing cafés.
See the Share website for the full inspiring collection of church café ideas, as well as additional fresh expression takes on rural ministry, workplace church, children's ministry, on-line fresh expressions, and more.
If you haven't done so already, please check out this video stream from The United Church of Canada's 85th Anniversary service, held June 20, at the More Franchises event in Toronto.
When aerosol artist Chor Boogie, who was part of the original Paint Your Faith event in Toronto, showed up at the recent Vancouver PYF event, no one expected him to paint. He had come to Vancouver to share his art at the Paint Your Faith show at Ayden Gallery and connect with PYF Vancouver artists Indigo, Titi Freak, Faith 47, and Peeta along the way while they worked on the new PYF mural.
While at the mural site, Chor also connected with Sandra Severs of First United Church Mission, which was co-sponsoring PYF Vancouver along with WonderCafe.ca. Chor asked if he could paint a section of First United's roof and Sandra said "Go for it!" And soon Chor, along with the Paint Your Faith documentary team, were climbing several levels of ladders to reach the steeple of First United Church, high above the Downtown Eastside.
If you are falling short on ideas to attract new people to the church (during the week) you might want to look to what people are doing online.
In fact, the main group that is extremely active online and are into social networking today are the retiring Baby Boomers. What a great audience to attract to your church. Many of them missed the computer age, or maybe worked in a place with a computer at a "dumb terminal" and only learned what the specific work programs required and nothing more. What a great target audience to attract. Of course there are the seniors who are the biggest buyers of laptops and want to find their old friends...dead or alive! Hey, I am not joking here.