Image: UCC

Hope can exist without trust,
but trust cannot exist without hope.

I think this leads to a very difficult set of assumptions and – especially in context of change – reveals a stark set of implications. Most of which are too often life-draining and – in respect to faith communities – can be soul-devouring.

As many who will be reading this first blog following General Council 42 will already know that – as an institution – The United Church of Canada has been exploring change with some intention for the last several years. In our context, this has been carried out under the leadership of the Comprehensive Review Task Group (CRTG). Regardless of the many differences of opinion around this process, the reality is that substantial imagining has and is occurring in our midst. In turn, this has led to a series of steps to change the church structurally and culturally.

Though there are many rationales for this change – for me – the one that is most energising is to imagine how the church might become more nimble and responsive to a culture that changes as quickly as the next YouTube video or cell phone release. In a disposable culture, I believe the church has a mandate to find ways to allow people to embrace that they – as just one part of Creation – are blessed, valued and NOT DISPOSABLE.

So after several years of exploration and study, listening and dreaming, the CRTG work was passed onto GC42. The gathering of this Court had the mandate to approve, change, tweak, or modify the work. With over 400 decision makers present, it obviously created an interesting way to move an institution forward that finds itself 10 years from its centennial birthday.

So – as I listened to most of the live broadcast and subsequent conversation with others who were in attendance – I am struck by two reflections:

GC 42 Worship

GC 42 Worship
Image: UCC

  1. There is a real love and passion for this faith expression that is lived out as The United Church of Canada; and,
  2. The model of decision making that we use is not grounded in trust: in fact, its birth and evolution arise out of a place of distrust that was intended to ensure that change was VERY difficult. The context comes from an era in which debate and adjudicative language preferenced a particular gender, educational experience and societal class. We have moved far from those days with much to celebrate – much that defines an egalitarian movement of justice-living, as opposed to justice-talking – and yet we must acknowledge that much of that system remains in place.

As one who loves organisational change and development, in particular from an appreciative perspective, here’s the challenge: if you always do, what you’ve always done, you’re gonna get what you’ve always got. As we endeavour to change, if we continue to use the same decision making processes that have formed us, then we will likely not experience change that is transformative.

The questions with which I am left, therefore, at the end of this blog are also assumptions that I think would be helpful for us as church – and anyone experience change in general – upon which to reflect. I offer them as neither final nor authoritative: rather to continue to move us into that which we might be through the catalysts of dialogue and story:

  • We are longing for change: what ways might that occur in order that all might share their very best experiences of transformation?
  • We are longing to trust: if we know that where we are is not where we imagine we might be, what ways might we explore new ways to make decisions that includes everyone?
  • We long to be embrace diversity: what might need to be changed in how we interact with one another, in order to not silence voices that long to speak? How might we shift a preference for debate and argumentation to one in which consensus is generative? And,
  • We are a people of hope: as Christian community, we are informed by a way of looking at reality through the lens of Easter. If we are seeking renewal – resurrection – what is it that is keeping the old alive and keeping us from dying into that which will be? How might we find ways to honour that which is without judging those who have come before us?