By Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle
Does your church have plastic plants?
They can provide a useful source of colour in otherwise drab places. Some may even use silk flowers as chancel decorations at times.
Is there anything really wrong with such practices? In moderation, these plants and flowers can be a useful way to keep things light and meaningful without significant care.
To what extent do we have ministries that function in the same way? How much of our work as Church is focused on doing what is simple and meaningful for the congregation?
We can get excited about filling baskets with food for local food banks, knitting scarves for clothing cupboards, and deciding which charities will receive outreach funds. These are all important and meaningful acts. Like plastic and silk plants, they fulfill a purpose and then we can put them back in storage, leaving them until we want to do something again.
Therein lies the challenge. How many of our ministries were put on back shelves when our buildings were shuttered due to COVID? How many are set aside when we are focused on other things – getting ready for the big bazaar, celebrating an anniversary, dealing with budget woes? What does it say about our investment in these ministries that they so easily can be tucked away until we choose to make them a priority?
Real plants aren’t so easy to tuck away. Even when buildings are shuttered, someone needs to come to water and care for them otherwise they might die. How many of our ministries need the same attention and care?
When the pandemic halted worship and other activities within our church buildings, what ministries did we intentionally seek ways to continue? What efforts did we put towards supporting the communities served by these ministries? How hard did we work to pivot to continue to live out the marks of mission as we had been doing before?
Living plants require an investment of time, resources, and care not required of plastic and silk plants. That investment, while beneficial to the plant itself, also provides benefits to those who care for them. We can watch living plants grow and bloom. We can benefit from the ways in which plants clean the air. We can celebrate new life when plants reproduce. Ministries in which we intentionally invest time, resources, and care can provide similar benefits for our communities.
What value could there be in taking a good hard look at our church ministries and determining which are like plastic and silk plants and which require the care we give to living plants? How might this acknowledgement serve as an opportunity to have a different conversation about the stewardship of our time, talents, and treasures? What is needed to ensure that we continually invest in activities that challenge us to embody the Marks of Mission even when it isn’t easy?
Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle is the rector of St. Paul's, Essex, a tri-chair of SEJH and a tri-chair of Justice League of Huron.