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

It's possible that newcomers to our pews will actually want something new

By Muriel Duncan

She was new to the city, young and lonely. It took a while but she turned to a nearby church. They shook her hand at the door but that was it. She felt invisible and no closer to God than she had in her back yard.

He was new to the city too and for reasons never quite clear went to a downtown church service. He was mobbed by the members of this older, small congregation who took him off to coffee hour and tried to get him into Bible study.

Neither returned to church. No welcome, too much welcome: it is hard to get it exactly right but the United Church is ready to try. As the national church launches its Emerging Spirit project to welcome the 30- to 45-year-old generation, its organizers want to raise the profile of this denomination. We're not sure we loom large enough in the secular space this generation inhabits to make much of an impression anymore. So the United Church is researching the views and values of 30- to 45-year-olds, planning to invest in television and Internet spot advertising. We've never tried this before but a couple of denominations in the United States have had positive results.

As good as the advertisements might be, United Church project leaders are aware that won't be enough to regain a missing generation. Congregations must be ready to welcome those who show up, and make them want to stay. So we'll need a strategy, we'll need resources. Maybe we'll need a new mindset about what we're doing Sunday mornings.

What if a whole crowd of young people, some singles, some in families, showed up on Sunday with their own needs, questions and a completely different agenda? What if they wanted some changes in the worship service? What if they don't want to pitch in with the congregational dinners? What if they ask embarrassing questions about what we believe?

If they come to the door, we'd better be ready to meet change with honest, open hearts.

General Council Executive has made a commitment to this enterprise, approving spending up to $3 million from the Morrison Bequest fund for research and development to get started. When it meets next August, the whole General Council will get a look at the results and say yes or no.

Not everyone is confident that building a better media presence is the way to go. On page 38, you'll find a pro-and-con debate over the merits of plunging into an advertising campaign. We have to be faithful to who we are as a church, goes one argument. Can you really remain faithful in the foreign land of advertising? It's a good, reasonable question.

There are others. What about the missing folks in the 45- to 60-year-old range, the 18- to 30-year-olds? We should invite them back too.

It is natural to have qualms about a project of this magnitude. It is risky. It won't be easy to sum up the United Church in a 30-second television spot. We'll never get total agreement no matter how good it is. That's just not us. Yet what is the alternative? To sit in sorrow as fewer know our name?

We have to try, to go where we haven't been and tell our story to people who might care. We've embarked on a great adventure without knowing where we're going to end up.

You could call that faithful.


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