UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

This church is great at blue-skying. It's our follow-through that we need to work on.

By Muriel Duncan

All over this church, congregations are considering their future, asking themselves what they should be doing with their aging buildings or how to attract young families or even where they can find money to keep a full-time minister. They know that times have changed and they have to change too. They don't all set out with a willing heart. Often we wait until we're desperate, after we've ignored the warning signs. Songwriter John Prine describes an accident caused "just from walking with his back turned to a train that was coming so slow."

Denominationally, church has had similar ambivalence about planning for its future. Over the last 12 years, members of successive General Council Executives have called in consultants, put up sheets of newsprint and tried to come up with church-wide priorities, usually when tight budgets demanded it.

Each new Executive has found it difficult to plan strategically in a group of 60 to 75 people. Much discussing but no strong plan.

At its April meeting, Executive was again asked the big planning question, which amounts to: What do we think God wants from The United Church of Canada today?

This time, it had the benefit of a "strategic framework" before it, hammered together by the senior staff. Based for the most part on recent General Council reports and decisions, the report included a realistic look at where we stand as a church (Church, page 15). As staff put it: "What has served us well until now will not continue to serve us well."

At the press table, the strategies sounded like a prescription for health: resources to help congregations sustain or transform themselves; support, training and recruitment of ministers; raising the profile of the church and its values through a media campaign; strengthening fund-raising, ensuring racial justice throughout the church.

The Executive was slower to applaud. Some members dragged their feet; anxious about the process going too fast, they wanted to route it through committees. Others appeared to long for more pre-plan discussion when all seems possible and no commitments have been made.

Thankfully, some Executive members were happy to see a plan, a framework that might lead to action sooner rather than later. They knew budget decisions this month would set directions, as money has a way of doing. And some named the best part of having a plan on the table -- it gives us hope.

The United Church of Canada is a brave, open and compassionate denomination. It has made some courageous decisions on social justice. It has been strong enough to apologize for sins in its history. It tries to include many different viewpoints, yet at the same time be open to discussing its deepest faith beliefs with all its people.

But nowadays we have a blurry public image; our own people don't always understand where we are heading. A comprehensive plan for the future would help us thrive in a new stage of our life.

We have the framework of a plan that could rebuild this church, we have the right leadership, we have a window in time when it could be done. But opportunities come and go and time is not frozen.


Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image

Society

July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots

World

June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.

Justice

June 2017

Undocumented

by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.

World

June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.

Society

April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Society

March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image