Finding Hope Amidst Challenges

image by E. Rowe in Canva

Once again in a recent conversation, someone brought up the article, published over 4 years ago, entitled “Gone by 2040.” It was about a report by the Rev. Dr. Neil Eliot, a priest in the diocese of Kootenay, who serves part time as statistics officer with the General Synod. The report says that the trend towards decline in church attendance has not slowed, and if it continues at the same rate, there will be no Anglicans left in the pews in 2040. That article sent us into a bit of a tailspin—everyone seemed to fear the worst. It coloured our conversations about the future. In many places, it was a cause for despair. The Anglican Church as we knew it was palliative. What’s the point of strategic plans? What were we planning for? 

If that wasn’t bad enough, COVID-19 hit. The tailspin worsened. Churches that were feeling the pinch were stressed even further. Some closed for good. Some reopened with fewer numbers attending. It all looks pretty bleak. Well, that depends on how you look at it.
If you step back a little and look some more, you can see how the Church, or more specifically how faithful Anglicans, and no doubt others, have responded and are responding. 

We went online; we found new ways of working; we developed a whole community and reached people who, up to this point, had been isolated. The General Synod moved from developing a traditional strategic plan to developing five “transformational aspirations,” which were renamed “transformational commitments.” At the centre of the graphic which depicts the commitments is “Invites and deepens life in Christ,” and surrounding that are:
• Champions the dignity of every human being; works to dismantle racism and colonialism.
• Embraces Mutual Interdependence with the Indigenous Church (Sacred Circle).
• Stewards and renews God’s creation: protects and sustains the earth; pursues justice for all.
• Nurturing right relationships among people of faith in local, national and global communities and networks.

As well, in many dioceses across this country, we directed our efforts towards discipleship, sometimes using different terms but essentially being a Church seeking to be faithful to its mission.
Looking at those transformational commitments and the focus of many of our dioceses, I see what is central to our call as followers of Christ which is summed up in the two great commandments of loving God and loving our neighbours. 

On the last day of March, we celebrate the heart of our Christian faith—the resurrection. We proclaim there is life when there seems to be only death. So why do we despair when we can’t see the future? “Hope that is seen is not hope,” we read in the letter to the Romans, which then goes on to encourage us to trust in God’s Holy Spirit. What will be gone in 2040? Trusting in that Spirit, we are promised that while our church may look a little different from what it is now, it will still be very much alive.

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