The Church has been in the news a great deal this past week. The local and even national outlets have covered much of it, from the Pope’s glum looking greeting of President Trump, to the Roman Catholic’s redistribution of priests and the creation of “pioneer” clusters, to thieves making off with pot-pies in Ingersoll. Other just as newsworthy items include many churches preparing to close their doors for the final time at the end of June, and locally to me, there is still much talk about what is to happen to the original log cabin structure know as The Madill Church. On one hand it is great to see the church making the news, while on the other hand very little is ever mentioned about the role of the church in the world today.
Without many women’s groups working to make pot-pies or a myriad of other fundraisers, many congregations would not have the funds to keep operating. Of course, it is not a recent phenomenon that congregations seem to struggle “financially”. For as long as I can remember (and that dates back to the 50’s when mainline churches were thriving), raising money was always an issue. It almost seems that finances were something separate from the real work of the church. I know that in my own denomination (The United Church of Canada) there has always been a distinction drawn between “spiritual” matters (read: worship, calling a minister, remits) and “temporal” matters (money and building issues). Sadly, because of this separation between spiritual and temporal, the church has and will continue to have “financial” problems.
Until we are able to realize that everything we do is a spiritual matter, very little will change. This fact not only applies to churches and whether or not they can pay their expenses, but includes all elements of our society. And before, any of my “atheist” or “agnostic” friends remind me of the necessity of the separation of the church and the state, let me say that when I talk about spirituality, I don’t necessarily refer to the institutional church or so-called organized religion. Spirituality is about life itself which even includes politics and sex.
Many good folks support the idea of protecting a church heritage but may not feel moved to fund any of its work because they don’t necessarily agree with all of the church’s teachings. (Who does?) There is no argument that organized religion is in decline. (I think I have mentioned in this blog before that the largest growing group is one the referred to as SNBR (Spiritual but not religious). In an article written recently the writer observed:
Fewer and fewer people have any affiliation with a community of faith, and mainline denominations are shrinking at a rate that calls the future of these churches into question, all of them accounting for less than 20% of the population. Worse yet, these gurus tell us no one is getting it right. Evangelicals bring people in the doors in record numbers only to watch them leave in record numbers, faster than their mainline counterparts. The stats are hard to hear. The picture they paint is not affirming.(Sarah Irving-Stonebraker)
So it would seem to me to wonder just what it means to be spiritual.
To answer my own reflecting, I believe it means that many are not sure about what they believe. At one time many organized religious groups could (some still don’t) accept the idea that “the unknown god” referred to in Acts 17:23 is never fully knowable. God is mystery and even though we should never stop seeking a strong relationship with the sacred/the divine/the unknown, we must also be prepared to live without full knowledge. The church should be helping us learn to seek God, not telling us what we should or shouldn’t believe about this mystery.