NEWS

“Hollowing out”: why Church matters

By Ven. Graham Bland

A lament in our Church troubles my soul … it’s about our numerical decline and loss of ground.

It’s troubling because it only partially describes our predicament … It does not propose reasons except ‘factors beyond our control’, demographic or cultural.  But are there factors we can control?

On November 15, former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, spoke of a “hollowing out” of the US State Department, because of a loss of clarity about why diplomacy matters.

“Hollowing out” echoes our lament about empty churches.  Perhaps we are hollowing out because we have lost clarity, too, about why church matters?

This is a question the brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist are inviting this coming Lent.  It’s a good question.

Doesn’t church matter because “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it”? (Psalm 24) Aren’t we here to serve the earth by embodying the astounding word and reality of God’s Love?  Isn’t that why church matters?

Recently, I asked Rev. Rosalyn Elm how settlers can make amends for land they took – by more than land acknowledgements.  She said, “Give it back, how ‘bout?”

Ouch! I took her seriously and considered long-term leases on the land.  Then she admitted, “I was just messing with you.” She went on, “Even if we acquire land back (it’s not ours by the way) it would not make whole our people who have lost so much. Spiritually and philosophically the church represents being made new…a new creation. New life from the dead.  Gesture upon gesture, we have to find new ways of being together, working and living brand new…”

Amen!  That applies on so many levels.

The Church, in this fractured world, is a living reminder of God’s new creation.

Church matters because it:

1)        is an agent of renewal in the world;

2)        searches out God’s will– in study, prayer, respectful speaking and listening;

3)        stands with courage for what God’s Love is doing in the world, over against all that threatens Love;

4)        offers the life-renewing Way of Jesus to the world.

Get some people together – maybe your family over Sunday dinner – and talk about this: Church Matters because …

That may lead you to decisions about how you will live out your calling.  Those decisions could mark the end of the “hollowing out” and a renewed “fullness of life” for the Church.

Why say all this in a “Stewardship” article?  Well, it’s because church matters.  Because church matters, because God’s new creation matters, we will give ourselves generously to it – the time, gifts and money that have been entrusted to us.

Generous living for the new creation is not about giving a lot, or even a proportion of all that has been entrusted to us … Generosity is about giving only what doesn’t belong to us … which is all we are and have!

To give yourself is to be fully human. To give yourself is simply the way to live.

The Ven. Graham Bland is the Chair of Stewardship Committee and Archdeacon of Saugeens.