Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The E Word....

Currently there is happening in the United Church of Canada the Comprehensive Review to help us as a denomination find a way forward as we face massive economic-driven downsizing and the need to restructure, to "do church" in a different way.  Officially under the review process guidelines "everything is on the table".  Some of the more cynical among us have a suspicion that the report is half written before information gathering is done and that there were a few things that were pre-determined/assumed as the process began.

Anyway, the task group has been issuing regular updates on their work.  Earlier today I was reading this month's update.  I came upon this section:
We spent some time at our meeting exploring evangelism, a term with which many United Church people are uncomfortable because of its association with conservative theologies and styles of worship. What if, instead, we thought of evangelism as going out to where the people are with a message of love, justice, and hope? What if we thought of evangelism as going confidently and joyfully into the world and inviting people to take their faith journeys in community with us, instead of waiting for them to walk through the doors?
That conversation led to a continued discussion of our vision for the church. Words emerged like: courageous, justice, Christ, community, open, united, commitment, faith, love, hope, church, vibrant. We believe the purpose of structure should be to enable communities of faith to take that vision into places of need in the wider world.
We don't "do" evangelism in the United Church.  Or at least we don't do it well.  Some of us would argue we don't even like to use the word (despite the fact that our antecedent denominations were openly evangelistic).   And yet I have to agree we NEED, not want, not it would be nice, NEED to learn how to share our faith story, our hope with those around us.  It is the only way forward that makes sense.

So I am happy the CRTG is talking about it.  I also know it is meaningless for the CRTG to talk about it.  The people that need to talk about it, to do something about it, to make it happen, are not at that table (or conference call as the case may be).  They are in churches large and small, new and old, "conservative, "liberal" and "progressive" from Atlantic to Pacific to Arctic.  We have to rediscover the tools of sharing that we are part of a church, part of a specific church and be able to share WHY.  Why do we take part in that community?  Why is it important to us?  What do we find there?  What is the story we share?  What is the hope we have to share?

And to do that we have to be honest about why we have this extreme discomfort (a discomfort that I would maintain has been around for multiple generations).  Why do we practically run from being evangelistic?  I think there are a number of reasons.  But the big one is we are not really sure WHAT we have to share.

What is our story?  What hope do we have to offer to the world?  What Good News do we bring?

Until we can articulate that, can we become evangelistic?

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