This last weekend, I was pretty excited to hang out with a congregation here in Winnipeg (John Black Memorial United Church), which was celebrating 100 years of ministry! It was amazing to realise how much has changed in that time. Four generations have come and gone, the fifth is en route and the minister who started it all – John Black – apparently had some misgivings about the Kildonan area. After all, it was pretty rustic – to say the least – especially compared to his New York at the time! The amazing thing is that after he left – you know did ‘his time’ – he CHOSE to come back! The ‘pegs always been a great well-kept secret 😉
Well, I’m there and as the time for the discussion part (Reflection or Word in Church-ese) began I knew a Muse was beginning. It began with one of the Bibles that was central to the worship. It was an old one – in fact going right back to John Black himself – and it is written in an English that is not easy to read 100 years later. Not because it’s damaged or anything, simply because language has done what it does: it’s changed over time. So, I got to thinking about words, change and where we find ourselves now as an institution called Church that’s really trying to find ways to share what we call the Good News.
This Good News is often how Christians understand our role in the world. It’s our ‘mission,’ if you will. Lots has been written and more will be (of that I have no doubt). My own understanding means bringing a message that celebrates life, diversity, people and creation in a way that is different than what you see in movies, TV, radio or on the ‘net. In essence, the Good News allows me to see you, me and others as a true gift. I don’t care what you believe or do for a living, what you drive or wear, who you love or hang with. The gauge of the Good News is what you choose to do for yourself and others and what your intention is when you do it. The rest always leads to a great conversation!
When John Black came to Winnipeg, he was entering a totally different world. As the church begins to navigate and accept its way in a new digitised and interconnected world, we too are going to have to find ways once gain to translate our words and mission to make sense. When people do not come into buildings anymore – well not first of all – but find you online, we are facing questions about how we share Good News in this space. Because let’s face it, if we’re not there, we don’t exist.
Last week, I met one of the friends with whom I am continuing to further my own studies. During that conversation an appropriate challenge was raised that social media and networks can be superficial places. Places that actually reinforce that none of us is good enough or worthy unless we acquire, consume, buy, sell or find something to add value to ourselves. Since we are not great to start with – the message goes – you/we/me have to supplement somehow! And – as I heard that challenge – I realised that finding some way to share the Good News in this medium is more important than ever.
As a blog is never the best venue for conversations that are nuanced, let me end by identifying a challenge with you. The you to whom I am talking aren’t those who come seeking and doubting and always raise important questions, many of which I often cannot answer but so enjoy the dialogue, but those who have experienced the Good News and want to pay it back. If you’re online – whether Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, or LinkedIn for instance – starting liking, sharing, favouriting, retweeting, and posting items that connect with your faith. It’s one way – small way – to begin to stand-up in this medium where a significant portion of the human experience gathers (Facebook alone – as of 2014 – has a population of 2.2+ billion people!).