Friday, September 09, 2005

THe CHurch is Dying...So WHat...Long Live the Church!

The United Church of Canada is having a gathering of 100 leaders in Arnprior Ontario to discuss the future of ministry in the church. I sent in an expression of interest but was not selected to attend.

However, the process of naming why I was interested was helpful to me. AS a denomination we are relatively young (80 years this year). My grandparents became United simply due to the fact that their local church became United in 1925 ( though I suspect that at heart they were always Presbyterians). In my letter I said:
I fully anticipate that the church from which I retire will be very different from the church into which I was baptised, confirmed and ordained, just as at 80 it is now a very different church than the one my grandparents became a part of when their local Presbyterian church joined in 1925. I have no problem with that, as change is part of growth, but I would like a chance to reflect upon and to discuss what that change might mean to those of us who live and work within the Church, either for pay or not...It is my firm belief that the United Church of Canada has a lot to offer to the world in which we live. It is also my firm belief that we, as a church, are losing sight of vital issues around identity. I see that we have tried to be everything to all people with the result that we no longer know who we are or where we are going. I have hope that events such as the Arnprior Assembly can help us find our place and our path once again. It is time that we stand proud as the United Church and proclaim a new vision for a world that is changed and changing.
In these words I also find a response to the neverending musing about the impending death of the church.

I hve long since stopped counting the number of times I have heard people complain that the church is dying (usually tied to a sense of loss for the old days that never really were as good as they are in memory). My question is what is the big deal? The church is always dying to be reborn. The church reminds me of the phoenix Fawkes. When Harry first sees Fawkes he is looking very poorly and then bursts into flame. But then Fawkes is the one who save Harry's life down in the Chamber of Secrets. Fawkes burned and was reborn to a new life. So it is with the church.

The church proclaims faith in God who conquers death, who brings life out of death. Why are we so worried about the fact that the church we once knew is dying? It always has been, and always will be. For only in that dying can we grow. What will the church look like when Sarah and Devyn are adults? I have absolutely no idea. But the Christ we proclaim will still be active in the world. God will still be doing a new thing if we are willing to look and see.

The church is dying, maybe even on its last breaths. The church is being born, taking its first breaths. So it is, has been and ever shall be. Thanks be to God. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. As one who stays in the UCCAN sometimes through gritted teeth, I resonate with your description of the "phoenix" church (I am trying not to succumb to the temptation to suggest a "Guy Fawkes Church", complete with en-fuse-iastic worship that really sets off firecrackers in peoples' souls...), dying in a sense to be reborn.

    Fact is, it's hard to be in transition, even if the transition bodes well. And, though we'd all probably like the rebirth to happen, what exactly are we going to see that goes "waaah!" when the time comes?