Heaven and Hell

Sunday Morning Musings:  My apologies for missing last Sunday, I was away on holidays and was just too lazy to write anything.  But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about things that might make for interesting topics.  Yet, it also proves that there is a huge difference between thinking about something and actually doing it.  In some ways I guess it proves the old adage that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

Now as I thought about this adage I also started to reflect on “hell” and its seeming opposite,” heaven”.  In earlier times (and even for some today) heaven and hell were/are quite literal places or destinations after this life.  If I am good (and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour – I am Christian or am I?) then by the grace of God I will be rewarded with a home in heaven.  Should I choose to be bad and not make such a confession before death, there is no choice for God but to punish me eternally.  Quite literally then I will either spend eternity in heaven or hell.

When it was believed that the earth was flat and the universe three dimensional, heaven was above and hell was below.  Above were clouds and angels and a great place to spend the rest of time.  Below existed as a fiery dwelling place where hard work continued (shovelling coal?).  Of course, this life was lived here on earth (here in the middle of the two) until we died.  In the middle of the last century as the Soviets and the Americans raced into space one of the first cosmonauts upon entering outer space (the abode of heavenly creatures including God); he remarked how he encountered none such beings which confirmed the atheistic stance that God didn’t exist.

For me as a youngster at the time, what was confirmed was that we didn’t live in a three dimensional world, and the travel into space only confirmed that learning was far from over.  In the last seventy years we have heard about many changes in our understanding.  In the 1960’s there was a “god is dead” movement which threatened some and resulted in more stringent lines being drawn.  God was put in a box (or Book) and sadly is still there for some.  For me, and others, there was a freedom created.  I was encouraged to view God as something more that even words could truly capture the essence.  God was called “the Other”, or various titles that attempted to speak of something more than could not even fully explain God.  Earlier this century The United Church of Canada’s Song Faith cited God as “Holy Mystery and Wholly Love”.

As a result of changing views of God, my understanding of heaven and hell also required more thought from me.  I began to question even the sense of how I lived this life influencing how I might be received after death.  One of the main changes in my thinking (my theology) is I need to spend more time concerned with the life that I am living now.  That is not to say that I am not concerned with what is sometimes called the “afterlife”.  Rather, I have come to believe that how I live now is more important.  I like the idea that how we live now influences life after our death in that if we have a positive attitude and motivation toward life now, it will be amplified after death.

If I choose to live love and compassion today, I will continue to do so.  If I choose to “create hell” on earth for myself and those around me, why should I expect anything different in the time to come.  Some have said that heaven and hell are here on earth and we create them.

Spiritul But Not Religious

Sunday Morning Musings:  Earlier this week I was talking to a person about some work I am having done around my house.  As most conversations end up, because of my calling as a minster of religion, we got to talking “shop” – mine not his.  (aside: I find it truly amazing how often the “unchurched” wish to talk about the church and religion.)

One of the many aspects we discussed had to do with what this person referred to as ‘Christian’ acts performed by the ‘unchristian’ ( or as some Christians might refer to them  – “the great unwashed”).  For clarification purposes he explained to me that he knows many folks that would not call themselves “Christian” but who are still loving, caring and generous people.  The discussion went so far as to include other world religions in that many people claim to have no religious affiliation but still adhere to or live out the “golden rule” and the laws about loving “God” and one’s neighbour.

On the opposite side of this coin, the comment was made that people who claim even strong religious connections do not live them.  An example he gave me concerned those who attend church regularly but have stated that they do so for business purposes (to make connections).  He spoke about the larger scale where even wars were fought for religious reasons.  (I wanted to interject that religions don’t cause wars, rather people do, but did not, so as not to interrupt him.)

Our conversation made me think of a quote I had read offered by the mystic Matthew Fox who is reported to have said: “Religion is not necessary but spirituality is.”  I would have to agree with him but with the caveat that as a choice, good and proper understandings of religion are okay and even beneficial.

Too often we interchange the words “religious” with “spirituality”, sometimes at our own peril. I call myself a “Christian” because of a choice I made long ago. Back then it was pretty much the only religion there was in my little part of the world.  As my world has grown, I remained following The Way of Christ, this Christian way. However, I have also learned along the way that my views are not the only views and what seems right for me, doesn’t have to apply to everyone.  I say that knowing that I am in direct opposition to some in my own tradition.  Here I would be quoted John 14, verse 6:  “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’  (New Revised Standard Version).  Were I inclined to argue further I might quote John 3:16 and emphasis the words “God so loved the world”.

To take either of these verses at face value could eliminate all others from ‘coming to the Father’, but that is not what I believe following the Christ was or is all about.  It is not mine or anyone else’s task to convert anyone to Jesus.  Rather, it is our responsibility to live and love as we are loved (like Jesus did).  He didn’t die that I might “live” somewhere in the great beyond.  He lived showing me how to live here and now.  Jesus lived showing the true nature of God which is love for all of creation.

Living love is what it means to be a spiritual person.  I don’t have to belong to any religion to do that. But belonging means something else too. Everyone needs a community of loving people (like-minded people if the sameness doesn’t involve exclusion and narrow thinking which often results in various forms of abuse (which also means abusing the Bible to make our point).

God is Spirit. We are spiritual. Now we only need to learn how to live it.

More Than Experience

Sunday Morning Musings:   I suppose I could say that most weeks hold something strange or unusual for me, and write it off as a normal week.  Yet for some reason this week feels extra strange.  Usually, by this time of the week, I have been able to process the week past and come to some kind of understanding of the feelings going on in my head and/or my “gut”.  However, this has not happened for me, or maybe it is just taking longer than I had hoped.

Processing of external and internal events has become a natural part of life for me.  I was once told that “experience is the best teacher”.  As a teacher I understood what was being said about the importance of actually doing something.  If I have four apples and give two away, I am left with two apples.  It doesn’t get much simpler than that.  Yet, if I spend time talking about this action, or “reflecting” on the experience, there is so much more happening.

Continuing the above example, I can do the arithmetic (or mathematics, I am never sure).  But what if I spend some time thinking about why I gave away two apples?  Hypothetically, if I was a good capitalist I should have sold the apples to make a profit.  A compassionate person might have given them all away.  If I lived in a Socialist society I might have been expected to give them to the government who would then share them with someone.  Reflection can cause me sometimes just to think I should have stayed in bed!

Now, of course, there are large issues at stake in life which often give us greater cause to spend time thinking about how and why we react in the ways we do. I have been told by some of my friends that they no longer watch the news.  Their reasons offered vary.  Some are just overloaded with the “bad news” by which they feel constantly bombarded.  Others aren’t sure what to believe or who to trust anymore.  Despite the fact that we are told that “good news” is no news, many still long to believe that life is better than we are told.  Good things continually happen around us, but rarely do they make the headlines and often get used as “feel good” stories trying to brighten up the dark news we have just heard.

Each of us is confronted daily by events in our own lives that require us to spend time asking ourselves our reasons for feeling affected.  Yet, I find myself wanting the “experts” to explain situations to me.  I want the political pundits to tell me why someone has done something – or what the actions mean?  When something involves the education system I turn to those I expect have answers to my queries. The same happens in the church.  A while ago Pope Francis commented about the wording of The Lord’s Prayer or the “Our Father”.  For some, the comment created a “tizzy”, while I am sure others were unaware of his comments and the ensuing discussions.

Naturally, daily events mean something different to each of us.  Some events will affect us differently also.  What becomes important is that we take the time to ask ourselves about our thoughts and feelings around those events.  Sometimes it becomes a matter of priorities and spending the time to sort out not only what events have happened but which and why they matter at all.

Or maybe, I can just pretend that nothing has happened at all and that it makes no difference at all.

Reading the Bible

Sunday Morning Musings:  As I read the Bible, I also find it important for me to also read about the Bible.  I like to find the context in which the reading is set.  I am very aware that the Bible is not so much a book as it is a collection of “books” or writings.  I am also cognisant that part of the Christian Bible contains the writings considered sacred by those who profess Judaism.  The Torah contains many of the same stories.  Hence, finding the context means even more than just what is happening at the time.  We encounter this, especially, since there is often a large gap between the events and the writing about those events.

Understanding the purpose of the sayings, which became writings, is also very important.  The second major portion of the Hebrew Scriptures contains the work of the Prophets.  Isaiah and Jeremiah offer longer writings that cover longer periods of time, while the so-called Minor Prophets often deal with a more specific time or event.  (The twelve minor prophets of the Old Testament are called “minor” due to their length not the importance of their message.)  In the writings of the New Testament the “gospels” are intended for different audiences and thus include references that would likely be somewhat known by their listeners (later readers?).  Matthew’s gospel seems to have been written with a Jewish audience in mind and so we hear the Old Testament often quoted.  On the other hand, Luke’s gospel would appeal more to a Gentile audience.

Regardless, of the intended audience, one of the main purposes of these stories, narratives, historical or mythical (I use that word tentatively – realizing that “truth” is even found in fiction), is to tell us about God.  However, over the centuries it has become clearer to me that our understanding of “God” has changed as we have changed and grown in our own knowledge.   At one time, it was easier to understand God as “above”, and satan as “below” and us, here in the middle, hoping to go above when we died rather than below.  The science (some would stop me right there and tell me to go no further) of life revealed that the earth is not flat and a new understanding needed to be found.  The anthropomorphizing of “God” diminished for some.  That is to say, God was no longer envisaged as “an old man in the sky”. Nor was God viewed by all to be “controlling” everything including the weather.  (There is a story told of a minister who scolded his people when they were to gather to pray for rain in the midst of a draught but didn’t bring umbrellas.)

The Bible continues to be a very important source of information.  It continues to provide the followers of the Way, with rules that make for better communal living; it continues to connect the followers of the Way with a better understanding of not just the past but the importance of our relationships moving forward.  Some people may have chosen to disregard the Bible while others continue to say they only follow the teachings of the Bible. In my case, I want to continue to read the Bible but it is not my only source of or to God.  The truth teachings of the Bible do not compete with science, or even history for that matter.

I will continue to read my Bible and encourage others to do so.  But I will not suggest that we take it as the literal word of God, nor as the only word of God.

Balance Includes Death

Sunday Morning Musings:  It is nothing new to say that change is difficult. It is also well known that one of the only constants in life is that of change.  I will use the word “evolution” to talk about some changes in life which is always evolving for us.  We may not like the changes that are occurring; we may deny them or resist them; but change is and will happen.

The changes that we experience occur at every level of our being.  What is more, is that most of the changes that happen to us may even wanted or more importantly needed/  We want to develop physically, mentally, cognitive and spiritually, but sometimes this development is thwarted, just as they are often inter-related. Nonetheless, development occurs and needs to be nurtured.

Sadly, sometimes the nurturing does not happen as it should.  The lack of a certain vitamin or other necessary nutrient can cause physical illness.  Some illnesses are even inherited for a parent or grandparent.  Some illnesses are caused by stress or other mental condition.  Though we have often separated the body, mind and spirit into individual “silos”, they are all interconnected.  That which affects the body will affect the mind and the spirit.

The key of course is balance. If one element of our life is out of whack, it can and does have far-reaching effects.  When I say far-reaching, I mean that a physical issue often results in mental and/or spiritual stress.  Sometimes, the mental or spiritual matters that get raised can even feel worse than the original physical pain.

As many of you know, I have spent at least the second half of my life, studying living and dying.  Often the response I get concerns as to why anyone would want to learn more about dying. (Trust me, I am not alone in my endeavours, nor am I the first or even leader).  King’s College at Western University in London, Ontario offers direct education.  Around the world, there are teachers who know the difficulty many have in dealing with death. (Through a friend in Australia I participated in a pilot project to deliver palliative care education by internet.)  When death is not accepted as part of life, an imbalance occurs and when confronted by life’s reality, we struggle.

Now, into this mix some cultures (Canada is one) we have begun the discussion around Medical Assisted Death. And as expected, there are numerous voices and opinions being expressed. Often the loudest voices are the ones that get the most “press”, often around slippery slopes.  As a result many experiencing the struggle directly will withdraw from the public eye to avoid “upsetting” others, in some cases even family and friends.  Once again the balance needed in all our lives is lost and undue concern even conflicts arise.

Life is about balance.  We need to try to keep in balance all aspects of life.  In general that means finding the right balance involving body, mind and spirit. This idea of balance will not be found if we as a society continue to deny or even shy away from the realities.  Life has taught us that change is inevitable.  Life has also taught us that we must change or be lost.  Change involves some long held beliefs and even so-called taboos.

Change also means that we are willing to let go of that which continues to result in the imbalance.  It also means that we don’t have to experience any of life alone.  There are people willing to make the journey with us through this thing we call life.  It also means that we must do all we can to make these connections happen.

Expressing Helpfully

Sunday Morning Musings:  Earlier this week I was asked by someone as to why many people found that speaking about death was so difficult.  In this particular incident the woman’s sister was dying and as she sat by her sister’s side she started wondering about death, death in general but her own in particular.  It was into this moment of her life that I was invited.

As I have said in previous writings, one’s primary job in such times is to listen.  I encouraged this person to talk about life and death.  Finding the process difficult at first, she was able to get past her hesitation (fears?) and talk.  In the end she was grateful for the opportunity to express views that she had kept inside for fear of being judged in one way or another.  For various reasons it is difficult for most to speak of dying and death even when we know rationally that death is part of living, part of life.

When I first began this week’s musing I wanted to write about the importance of saying the right things, or knowing when not to say what we are feeling.  When another discussion centred on death, it wasn’t problematic for me to find a connection.  (I realize this may be my own bias.)

Firstly, I will state that every one of us will be confronted with what we learn and term as “unpleasant” situations. The real concern becomes how we respond.  Over maybe the last 40 years or so, educators have tried to summarize the human experience around grief.  The heart will always be slower than the head when it comes to this type of loss.  We know death will occur, we know death has occurred but there is always part of us that will reject that knowledge (or at least try to).  We likely will also feel the anger of that loss (even hearing of an illness) and need to express what some describe as “rage”.   Many of us remember the lines from the poem by Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

We are told that we should not keep this rage bottled up inside.  This is true, but when and where we choose to express these feelings are every bit as important.  If I am going to be a helpful caregiver I need to be present, but I cannot let my needs overshadow the other person’s needs.  I remember a fellow being very angry with me.  I went to visit him and heard him tell his mother that he didn’t want to see me.  My ego was hurt – why wouldn’t he want to see me? A whole range of feelings (selfish ones) started to flood me, until the better part of me kicked into gear and I was able to remind myself that it wasn’t about me.

With the increase of “social media” it has become even more important for us to use our words wisely.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t say things, but when and what and why and how and even where our feelings are expressed are even more important.  I have heard it said that if I can’t say something kind that I should not say anything. Even if my words may be truthful, I must still be concerned about the other person or persons.

I love improv (improvisational) games because one the main tenets is to make the other person look and feel good about themselves.  This is also one of life’s greatest attributes for us all.  So we always need to ask ourselves how we can best do just that.

New Years’ Balance

Sunday Morning Musings:  As an old year comes to an end and a new one begins, it seems to be a time for the making of resolutions.  Or as some of us like to think, a time for hoping and wishing that things would change in our lives and in the world.  On the other hand, many say that they no longer make New Years’ resolutions because they do not often keep them very long.  That may be very true, but is it that we find change difficult; or do we resolve to undertake too much.  As someone reminded me recently, perhaps we need to think like the person who decides not to drink for one day at a time, rather than telling himself that he can’t drink for the rest of his life.  Our goals or resolutions need to be attainable, as well as measureable, realistic (make them SMART).

I have found the same to be true about my spiritual life.  (Not that one can or should ever try to separate one’s spirituality from the rest of life.)  I have made resolutions in the past about spirituality but have often (always?) kept these goals to myself.  Most of my “secret” reasons have had to do with what I considered the idea that these are private matters.  As a result, I would resolve to pray more, be kind to everyone, exercise more, eat healthier foods – you know the drill.   Usually, because of my lack of will power, I would gradually or not so gradually revert to my old ways.  Often times even without thinking – my old patterns would return.

I had the right idea.  That is to say, my whole life is inter-connected.  I know that “balance” was the key.  Often I would find something that gives me a reason to change and so I pursue it.  Unfortunately, I often got stuck doing too much of the one thing.  Some people walk to exercise their body and use that time to meditate and converse with their God.  Some people run because running gives them a “high”, literally and figuratively.  I admire these people who find the connectedness of the physical and the mental and the spiritual.  When I served in Almonte, Ontario (birthplace of James Naismith, inventor of basketball) Naismith’s primary focus for all humans was always “body, mind and spirit”.

Though he lived over 100 years ago, he wasn’t creating something new.  This idea of balance in one’s life has been around since the beginning of time.  Too often, we even lose this idea of balance in the various thoughts and beliefs that get floated around.  Even religion went overboard.  Religion became about doctrine and dogma.  We were told that if we believed certain things that we would be “saved” or “blessed”. We were also told that if we did certain things we would find ourselves on God’s “naughty” list and bad deeds would not go unpunished by God.  Only recently has there been an increasing amount of positive discussion connecting science and religion, which is a good start.

I would like to think that I am correct all of the time – that I know the truth and that is that.  However, to let one’s prejudice override others’ thoughts becomes only a losing proposition for all.  It is okay to “preach to the choir”, that is to say those who agree or accept my views.  But it is best when I also listen to what is being told to me.  If my mind is made up before we begin then there is no use in beginning. My hope for this New Year is that we can spend more time listening.  I mean really listening even before we start to think of a response.

The Christmas Story

Sunday Morning Musings:   Through many Christian homes the Christmas story is being told once again.  It is always a special treat for me to hear the many versions that have been created over the years.  Even from the very beginning of the story the telling and re-telling gives its own twist to events.  Some would even go so far as to say that it all is nothing more than a made-up story.  There is no historical truth to any of it.  Even if that fact was true, it does not prevent me from realizing that historicity is not the point of the story at all.  Whether or not the story is true, I am not prevented from finding in the story so much worth celebrating.

The gospel according to Mark tells nothing of the Christmas story at all. And over the centuries there has been a “mashing” together of different parts of the story, or stories, which have combined legends creating in all likelihood something much different from writers of the gospels of Luke and Matthew.  Again, it is not the even the facts of the story that hold the true meaning of the Christmas story.

Full disclosure tells me that a “virgin” birth is possible (I can’t explain miracles, nor can accept that Mary was perpetually a virgin), but to me it doesn’t affect the meaning of the birth story.  The fact we are told by the writer of Matthew’s gospel that the “wise men” or magi visited in a “house” rather than in the stable, does not make the story invalid.  The recollections of both Joseph and Mary as they must have spoken about the visits they received from “angels” may have changed with re-telling but again it is not the incident but the meanings that are important.

To me, the story of Christmas is about relationships.  Firstly, there is the relationship of God (that is the word I will use) with humans.  The Christmas story reminds us of different elements of this relationship. We often do not recognize the presence of God (remember, I do not think of God as a being, rather God just “is”).  Mary, and others, were visited by “angels”.  Again, using the example of Mary, she did not know what was happening, she didn’t understand what she was told; but neither did she refuse.  She accepted the mystery and when she shared this “visit” with others (at least with Elizabeth) she saw a bit more of the picture.  As is so often the case, our hindsight is quite good. Mary‘s story is one of relationship. As is Joseph’s story and ours.

The idea of the name “Emmanuel” speaks further of “relationship” when we are told the name means “god with us”.  I love the version told by kids from New Zealand that reminds us throughout that “they won’t expect that”.  Their story reminds us that our relationship with the divine is always happening but so often we are not expecting it and therefore don’t realize or recognize God’s presence with us at all times. (Again, I don’t believe in a God who causes bad things just so we might be comforted by God.)

Most importantly, the Christmas story invites us to be part of the relationship in that we are called to find the divine in all that we say and do; in all that we meet.  Edgar Guest once wrote:

“I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day; I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.” To me, Guest understood Christmas.  It was about re-telling the story but in very practical ways. It was about more than just hearing the story, but living the story, about living in the presence of God; about seeing the divine in the everyday occurrences of life.

Giving All Year Long

Sunday Morning Musings:  I heard a story about a child born in December who once remarked that he wanted to celebrate his birthday in July.  To explain this choice he simply said that the way things are now everything happens in December and then I have to wait a year for it all to happen again.  There was little question about his thought process.  Even more so was his contention that everything happens in December (well at least seems to happen).

Many nursing homes will tell you much the same thing.  The person responsible for programming events has to work overtime to try to fit all the extras into their schedules.  Groups or choirs they may not hear from any other time of year try to make arrangements to visit in December. I understand part of their reasoning to be that they have usually prepared all autumn for a December concert and want to share their work which is a wonderful gift. However, the overlap can be almost “too much of a good thing”.

It also seems that since most people are in a “Christmassy” mood that they may also be more willing to give.  As a result there are all kinds of “food” drives and “toy” drives.   None of these asks are wrong and are greatly needed. Giving to or sharing with others in need is important.   In his daily meditations Richard Rohr quotes Sally McFague who says:  “[I]f one understands God to be not a ‘substance’ but the active, creative love at work in the entire universe, then ‘loving God’ is not something in addition to loving the world, but is rather the acknowledgement that in loving the world, one is participating in the planetary process (which some identify as ‘God’) of self-emptying love at all levels.”

I understand Rohr to be telling us in part that to give of ourselves is to be acting as we are intended to act – lovingly, which in turn reveals the divine within us.  And I would be the last person to ever suggest that we should not be more God-like.

What I would like to suggest is that we need to try to be as active in our revealing God within us throughout the whole year.  What if we could have “White Gift” Sunday once a month instead of once a year?  Even our public network TV channels would prefer regular monthly installments over once a year giving. Spreading things out throughout the whole year is a good idea. I remember one time being asked by the group home our Sunday School was planning to visit to sing and offer gifts was asked if we would come in January when the residents were so overwhelmed with “visitors”.

December is often considered a very busy time for us all.  In the Church we hold extra services,  groups from inside the church or outside clamour for space to hold their functions. In many ways we tend to feed the frency that happens in December (actually starting in late November with Black Friday sales).

Perhaps one of the best things that happens, at least for me, is that late on December 24th, most of the busyness seems to stop for a bit – and voices young and old join in the singing of “Silent Night”.  And though we may hold many different views and opinions about what the birth of a baby in Bethlehem may mean, there comes a stillness that can penetrate the heart.

If only, we could find a way to keeps that feeling all year long instead of just once a year and not have to wait a full year for it to happen again.

The Future of the Church?

It seems nearly everywhere I turn these days I am being confronted with a  question about the future of the church, even if there is a future.  Since I like to walk down the middle of the road a lot, I find myself responding in different ways.  Firstly, I have to ask what one means by “church”.  The institutional church will continue as long as there are people who will finance it for whatever reason.  Many will continue to support the church because they are devoted to doing God’s work, some even after their death through a bequest to the church.  Others will continue to support their church because they are concerned about their own futures after death.

At the same time there are those who have chosen to stop supporting any particular church.  These folks may have out-grown the effectiveness of what they were being fed by the church institution.  Their attitude likely is that since they no longer feel the church is relevant to their needs, why should they continue to uphold an institution that is past its due date.  Others simply may have stopped supporting the church because they may have felt hurt by the church.  I have learned over my years (often by mistakes being made) that if I close the church door in someone’s face, they are not likely going to try to get in through a window.  In the past churches have refused to marry someone unless they received an annulment from the church, despite they had children from the previous marriage.  I was asked once to marry a couple because they couldn’t get married in “their” church because they were divorced.  Yet once they were married, they would be more than welcome to fully participate in the church because they were married.

One group that operates both outside and inside the church is often known as the SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious) group.  Many in this group are outside the confines (more than one meaning intended) of the church.  They may not agree with those things done in the name of the church and therefore feel they can’t support something that acts, in their minds at least, as unloving.  Others may consider themselves as part of the SNBR group but have stayed within the church.   They have continued to grow in their faith and yet feel the need for the community that is provided in and through the church.  These folks may not agree with their church’s doctrine or dogma. They continue to study their Bible but refuse to take it literally.

So when it comes down to being asked about the future of the church, I find my reactions mixed. Since the beginnings of this institution nearly 2000 years ago, the church has gone through many changes.  Interpretations and understandings of the Word of God have changed for some but not so much for others, yet change has occurred.  Just having the Bible printed in English is a change.  (The saying that the King James Version was good enough for Jesus so it must be good enough for me doesn’t really work if it ever did.)  The music of praise has changed as even organs were not used when worship began.  Old hymns were once new hymns, and so on.

Does the church have a future?  Do we need the church in the future?  These questions and others like them will have different answers for different people.  What is even more important is how people act toward one another. If we follow the Way of God (name for original Christianity) we need to accept that change though difficult is also necessary.  We need also be prepared to accept that the Spirit that lives in, around and through us does not cease to do so just because we choose to thwart or deny it.  Rather to be part of the living Spirit we need first and foremost to live lives of meaning and love, knowing that we are loved regardless of what we decide about the future of the church.