In early spring we had the privilege of Carmel Doyle (Professor at Queens College) joining us in our parish on a Sunday. Some of the work that Carmel does at Queens is around re-imagining the life and work of the ever emerging church. Every spiritual community is called at this time to do the work of reimagining what God is calling us to be in this age.
The Church, just as with every society, is ever evolving. The church that many of us have known over the last two generations is not only dying, it is already dead. What most of mainline church leadership has been trying to do over the last 40 years is to “fix” a church in decline. That era of trying to repair what was dying has passed, for it is dead. The church that we have known historically in Newfoundland and Labrador is gone. There is a remnant left, yes. When something old is passing and something new is being called forth, God always leaves a remnant, a few to rebuild with, to revision with, to reimagine with, to recreate with. There is a remnant in every spiritual community in this province. So there is reason to hope.
But this hope calls us to something new. This hope calls us to listen more deeply with our spiritual hearts for what God is already doing all around us. This hope calls us to love ourselves into new and emerging forms of spiritual community. There are things that this remnant is doing that it must always do. The Scriptures and Sacraments will always be foundational to Christian Community. But God is not limited to or confined by our Scriptures or Sacraments - or our buildings!
God is Life, and therefore God is in all of Life - not only in us and in our current church communities, but in all of Life all around us. God is in our neighbourhoods, in various organizations that gathers people for a common purpose that also helps others, and in creation itself. God is wild and free, and the church does not have a monopoly on God nor does it control who has access to God. This is the church of the empire that we have inherited, and that church is long gone. But the Way of Jesus remains.
The Way of Jesus recognizes the Risen Christ in the stranger and in every human being. The Way of Jesus recognizes the Love that is our deepest identity as the Love that makes us One with every other person and with all of creation. The Way of Jesus calls us to find new ways, as a church, to be lovingly present in our neighbourhoods and society.
Here is one of the questions that Carmel asked us to explore: What are the limits of our love towards the stranger, the outsider, whom we encounter (in our neighbourhoods)? What does God ask of us as individuals? As a church community? Listen for the leading of the Spirit.