United Church Moderator says congregations should focus less on survival
and more on responding to the suffering and need of the world
TORONTO, Oct. 4 /CNW/ - In a letter mailed to United Church congregations
this month, the Moderator of The United Church of Canada, the Right Rev.
David Giuliano, offers words of encouragement and issues a challenge.
"The health and vitality of our congregations depends on our response to
the suffering of the world around us," writes Giuliano.
He adds, "Most people, if they encounter our church at all, do so through
a local church community. Your congregation is the primary way our
understanding of the gospel mingles with the suffering and need of the world."
The letter emphasizes that congregations should focus less on their own
survival and more on the church's mission.
"Some of our congregations are struggling. Some are experiencing a
renewal of Spirit. In either case our hope is not for our survival or even
growth but in what God can accomplish through us. The Book of Isaiah records a
promise that we will flourish like a watered garden when we care for the
homeless, hungry, and oppressed."
He adds, "Jesus put it even more starkly: 'For those who want to save
their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for
the sake of the gospel, will save it' (Mark 8.35). We need to continually
rediscover not how to save our life but how to give it away for the gospel."
Giuliano writes, "I am praying that more of us become concerned with
Jesus' call to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and
visit those who are sick, lonely, or in prison. I am praying that our
preoccupation with getting people into church is transformed by a passion for
getting the church out into the world. I am praying that we welcome strangers
with a radical hospitality that sees in them the face of Christ - not an
'identifiable giver' or a 'potential committee member'! I am praying that our
worries about buildings and budgets are overtaken by excitement for the
mission of our church."
Giuliano admits his challenge to the church will involve risking familiar
and precious belongings and customs. Nevertheless, he says, he thinks he was
elected Moderator because of three simple words that he offered to the church
at the time of his election: "Be not afraid."
Speaking to United Church commissioners in August 2006, Giuliano said
that whenever the words "be not afraid" are whispered in our midst, they mean
"God is getting ready to do something new and is inviting us to be part of
that." He added, "I am convinced that fear is ultimately what stands between
us and hearing and doing God's dream for us at this time."
In this month's pastoral letter to congregations he again refers to these
three words, "Be not afraid." He writes: "They are words that resound
throughout the gospel story. They are not a call to courage, but a call to
faith. Let us move forward in faith, not fear, to embrace our call to life.
Let us encourage one another toward God's dream for us and through us in the
The complete text of the Moderator's pastoral letter is posted on The
United Church of Canada's website at www.united-church.ca.
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