The Hamilton Spec article on the Future of the Church August 21, 2014
To see into the future one really needs a crystal ball but when lacking such a medium, the best thing to use is a fragment of such a sphere thus creating a lens. Depending on the shape of your lens, you will see things differently. When considering the future of the church I suppose we can look through many shaped lenses; I offer two such lenses and thus two perspectives.
If one were to look through the ‘Number’ lens there would be a perspective of loss. Numbers being linear in nature create spectrums where fewer is culturally considered less valuable and more is considered precious. So, the Numbers lens tells us the church is becoming less valued by society and that if this trend continues the church will eventually cease to be.
While the institutional church cannot separate itself totally from the culture, we must consider Numbers but that is not the lens of my preference. We have been and always will be a spiritual community of believers in Hope and in Love and in Justice. These eternal things do not die! As long as there are seekers of Peace, faith will persevere, be that the Christian faith or any other faith. The formation of these communities of faith will shift and change and that is a sign of transforming Life.
I believe that gathering together is a response to an innate human thirst for community. We are not the only ones who instinctively yearn to be together with others; there are packs and herds and flocks to name a few. There is something that calls us to one another for support in times of need and celebration in times of joy. When we gather, we give thanks for the Holiness in one another and in the Holy One who called us together. I cannot imagine this intrinsic aspect of our spiritual identity will wither.
Personally, as a member of the United Church of Canada, my faith is particularly enriched by the ministry it does in leading the pathway towards justice. This denomination has been courageous in its stance on a variety of issues ranging from seeking equality for women in ordered ministry and equality for people of all sexual orientations to many international concerns including the internationally illegal occupation of Israel in Palestine and environmental justice. We have nurtured partnerships all over the world with churches and human rights organizations who challenge our perceptions, and call us to solidarity with them in the struggles that they face on a daily basis. These eternal quests for justice will never cease and the people of the United Church will continue to do this ministry in some way forever. A quote often attributed to St. Augustine tells me that communities of faith will never die; “We without God, cannot and God without us, will not.” No lens or crystal ball will ever tell us for sure what the future will bring to the church but I believe in the power of Love and I understand it to be eternal.