MINISTER’S MUSINGS …………………ON THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA
June 10th marks the 93rd anniversary of the founding of The United Church of Canada. The United Church remains the largest Protestant denomination in Canada, although membership in the church, as in all mainline Protestant denominations, has been slowly declining since the 60’s. Nevertheless, at least 2,000,000 Canadians still claim some form of affiliation with the United Church through watershed life events such as baptism, marriage and funerals (hatched, matched and dispatched!).
We are generally considered to be a “liberal” denomination on the theological spectrum, but, in fact, the 2,500 pastoral charges that are sprinkled across this sprawling country embrace a wide variety of theological perspectives. If you spent time travelling around to the 28 United Church congregations in Calgary, you would be wonderfully surprised at the diversity you would find there. Each church embraces a ministry and a theology that is uniquely its own. And I say “Bravo” to that!
The United Church is a church denomination that is deeply embedded in matters of social justice. We are fearless in our defense of human rights, we welcome all people and we are wonderfully inclusive. This stance, of course, often gets us in trouble. Lots of people stomp out of our churches because they are upset about something the church says or does in the world. It was true in the 30’s when the church began ordaining women (yikes!). And it is true today when the church fully embraces our gay and lesbian community or works for reconciliation with our Indigenous neighbours or expresses concern about climate change.
The United Church is often accused of being much too involved in the affairs of the world. Many say that the church should “stick to its knitting” and simply preach the Gospel. Actually, that is precisely what we are doing! You see, Jesus did not retreat to the temple in Jerusalem so he could read from ancient, dusty manuscripts and piously pray. He was out and about among the people – healing, teaching, transforming lives. We are called to do the same.
And one final thing that is critically important for the folks who claim affiliation with the United Church is our willingness to honour and work with faith communities around the world. While we remain committed to telling the life changing stories of Jesus, we honour all faith communities that are seeking peace and harmony in the world. That’s why, for example, Central United hosts a Muslim prayer group in our church every Friday at noon.
The United Church doesn’t always get it right, but we remain strongly committed to staying on the path, trying to do what is right, in our unique, stumbling way.