The future of the United Church of Canada concerns me. The statistics over the last 20 years have been alarming, and the projection for the next 20 years are heart-breaking as we watch a once influential and well respected church decline so dramatically.
And we’re letting it happen.
To say I’m frustrated with the state of the church today is an understatement. I came into this church by the clear call of God in my life, and all I do is bump against bureaucracy and resignation for what is to come.
The latest straw laid upon my back is the recent letter informing us that pension contributions will increase by 2% for both ministry personnel and pastoral charges effective January 1, 2013. I know full well there will not be cent left for me in 30 years, should I be able to retire. Does this seem particularly fair given that the shortfall should have been predicted a number of years ago.
Couple this with the immense greed shown to us by our government and financial institutions in recent years where boomers approaching retirement seek to find the golden goose on which they can live comfortably into their golden years.
This goose ain’t got no eggs to lay. Much less golden ones.
But this issue is more than about financial comfort and retirement for me. This is about the future of the church of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, or at least it should be.
The stats do not lie. 50% of the clergy of the United Church of Canada will reach the age of retirement in the next 10 years. For the mathematically challenged, that’s half, or every other minister.
We as a denomination and a presbytery already acknowledge that we have too many churches and too few people. As I look forward over the next 30 years, I don’t like what I see.
In this presbytery we have 5 young ministers. Each of us passionate for the church and for Jesus Christ. We want to lead a spiritual church. We want people to be excited about the Gospel and we want people to love the Lord as much as we do.
But we are in palliative care. We run our churches with an end date in mind. We may not know the date, but we know it’s coming, so what we are doing is making ourselves as comfortable as possible as the end draws near.
I can’t speak for the other 4, but it disturbs me greatly that we, as a presbytery, are missing out on opportunities to create life in our churches because all we can focus on is death. This is not what I have signed up for.
Suggestions for change, suggestions for opportunities for renewal, shared ministries, spiritual events, all have been for not as people ignore what we do and settle in for the short trip to death.
We are looking at inheriting leadership of a church with dire financial projections, too many buildings, too few people and too few clergy. What in the world are we going to do with these things? What are we doing to address the problem TODAY? Not tomorrow, next month, or next meeting, but today!
Think carefully about how you want to respond. None of us have any strong ties to this part of the world. Yes we love being here, the people are wonderful, but I for one will not stand and watch the church die. It is just too draining of my energy. So I’ll have to consider leaving, to a church, a region, or even a denomination which is willing to work by the guidance of the Holy Spirit into a time of renewal and new life. A place where Jesus Christ is Lord and people take to heart his message for sharing and growing people in him. I cannot continue to sit around and mourn something that isn’t dead yet. I wasn’t ordained to help the church die.
*I apologize for the comments that have been lost. I had a server crash and the comments were lost. Please feel free to repost your comments, I fully appreciated them all.