Monday, January 28, 2013

New hope for an old church

I've been having a hard time finding hope lately. Never mind all that sunshiny goodness that I came home with after Son-Rise New Frontiers. It's a lot of things, and I know I could find it again, but I think the misery is serving me somehow right now, because I'm reluctant to even try to let go. Part of it is definitely chemical though. I keep getting glutened, and that has some serious psychological symptoms. I'll admit my part, but I think I get a pass on part of it. :)

My church is very likely closing. I'd say it's a near certainty that it will close June 30 this year. I am grieving. I know that I could smile that I had it, not cry that it's gone, but it's been a big part of my life and I'm going to miss it terribly. It's not like the Catholic Church where I could just drive down the street to the next one and have the exact same experience. My church is small, upbeat, casual, welcoming to all. We have amazing music and wonderful people. When I broke my foot a few years ago, hundreds of dollars arrived at my door, anonymously. I know it was from church, but not from whom in particular. No one let on. When my 3rd kid was diagnosed with Autism, people cried with me and held me, and told me how awesome I was. One woman has spent countless hours doing energy healing (Healing Pathway) with people, 10s of hours with me alone! It was someone from church that convinced me to try Son-Rise! (Thanks Arnold! You'll never know what a blessing you are.) When I look around and see gay couples snuggled up listening to the sermon, right next to a breastfeeding Mom, next to an octogenarian who is smiling at both of them, I wonder where I ever could find this love again. When I hear the pianist playing Old Grey Mare as a way of teasing the minister during the prelude, and kids in costumes, or adults in their running clothes, I wonder if I'll ever find a place so casually comfortable. And I doubt it.

But we're too small to keep going the way we're going. And the way we're going isn't really healthy anyway. We're pretty insular. We do some fundraising for good causes and provide cheap rent to AA groups, but I don't see us doing a lot of mission* work. At least not as a church. I think there are a lot of people who do mission work on their own. I know there are, actually. But together as a church, we're not doing much. We have a problem finding volunteers. And there's a good reason for that. We know it's not working. We know it's dying. And we're tired of doing the same old thing and nothing working.

The Church (this time uppercase C, meaning the whole United Church of Canada and really, all of Christendom  has been saying that the Church will have to undergo radical change in order to thrive. But churches are more conservative that your Aunt Clara, and slower to move than her bowel after a steak dinner. Most individual churches' idea of "radical change" involves changing the service time to 11am on Sunday rather than 10:30.

So we're dying.

I'm sure hoping for another resurrection! No false hope, as I recall, is the name of this blog. Hope means "I'll try", I think I said. So I will try. I will bug people to do things differently. Our church voted on "doing church differently" and most voted in favour of it, but there was no common vision of what that would be. Council decided that we couldn't afford it anyway, in money and time, and recommended a proposal to close. Now, I think that's remarkably short-sighted and self-defeating. How on earth or heaven can anyone determine that they don't have enough time or money to do something when they haven't defined what that something is?

Here's my vision, as clear as I can make it: Sell the albatross that is the building and land. Bank the money, and rent a small commercial space in a strip mall or under condos. Make it on a bus route. Downtown Colwood would be perfect. Maybe near the casino on the View Royal side. Use that commercial site to run some sort of mission. I don't care what. Ideas include: cheap daycare, youth drop-in centre, soup kitchen, tech exchange/tutoring (poor people need tech help too!). Pick one. It could open even once a week to start with. Grants, donations, fundraising in the community (not just in our congregation) can make this happen. And there can be worship services for those who wish to attend, just like they are now. We don't lose the spirit of our church, and we start doing, as a church, what Jesus told us to do.

We don't have the money? Sell the building. We don't have the volunteers? If we tell them what we're planning, and advertise for more volunteer help, it will happen. It can happen. But there needs to be clarity of vision. Not "we'll be different. Can you help?" No. No, I can't. "We need volunteers for church school. Can you help?" No. No, I can't. That's the same old thing, and I'm bloody sick and tired of it. This is not 1962. It will never be 1962 again. So please, let's look to the future, to completely new ways of doing things, not rearranging the chairs.

Here's hoping!

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