After I read Preston’s article about having a summer sabbath, I thought what a great idea. It has been good to have a break from blogging since then. Over the summer I spent quite a bit of time thinking about and reading about church renewal. Advent, where I serve as a pastor, has set for itself the vision of being a centre of renewal. That is, one of the many places where God is at work renewing the church. As I have been reading and talking with people I have been noticing elements of renewal that consistently come up, interesting insights and experiments that just seem fun. So I though this year I would write a series on elements of renewal In other words from our own exploration of what it means to be a church of renewal, what are some of the elements that we are hearing about and seeing in our own lives that our brining about renewal. As always I would appreciate that this be a conversation. So if you are seeing key elements to renewal – send in a comment or even submit a guest column.
So what is the first element of renewal. Well this might be stating the obvious, but it is the most important, – Simply wanting to be renewed and being open to the possibility of renewal. Yea, I know it seems obvious. It amazes me though what resistance there is to this basic openness. I look at my own denomination nationally, at our synodical convention I again heard clearly that nationally we have set a corse for one thing – a declining church and adjusting to that declining. I have also heard and seen many congregations literally build a fortress around themselves to keep new life out. I once even attended a congregation where I was once late for church and discovered the doors were locked. They literally locked the doors so that no one might wander into the church, especially the poor (ie. Jesus) who lived around them. I have seen other churches chase people out who bring new gifts, and I see again and again how congregations work to sabotage new life, or block out anything new by holding to a static idea of tradition (which usually looks like an idealized versions of the church from the 1950-70s) So why is this.?
I wonder if it is because we have forgotten the basic dynamic of confession and forgiveness. It seems we have forgotten that it is a central element of our faith to recognize that we don’t have it all together. That we are not right. That the way things are done are not the best. Recognizing that on our own we are in adequate, that we have fallen short of what God has intend for us is the beginning of confession. Confession though dosen’t stop there. Confession’s gift is not in making us feel inadequate, but rather the ways that confession opens us to the possibility of God’s grace-filled action. Confession is about turning from our selves, and what we have been to the possibilities that God calls us to and the ways that God is already at work amongst us. Confession is primarily about hope, it is about opening ourselves to the life of God being in us. And God’s life being in us is what renewal is all about. So the first element of renewal is not just wanting to be renewed and being open to renewal but also confession and then living into the proclamation of Grace and new life that flows from this opening of our lives to God.
Could not help but smile at the juxaposition of the article on renewal and the ad for reversing osteoporosis…isn’t that what the church is trying to do? We try to make renewal happen while keeping the structure somehow intact…to make our own osteoporosis manageable. There is a promise and a threat in Jesus’ promise to make all things new. What if we want to keep the old and have Jesus make it better. That is not what is promised. All things…scary stuff.
Jesus calls followers to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow. We need to acknowledge that this faith journey is one in which we follow where Jesus is going, not trying to get Jesus to ‘bless’ what we are doing. Are we willing to let go of what has been so that we may follow where Jesus is leading? You are correct Ryan, we need to be open to the possibility of renewal if we are to be changed by the power of God.
Ryan, you have hit the nail on the head in regards to a struggling church…but could the actual challenge be not in wanting renewal, but fear of what will happen if we open ourselves up to the Heart of Christ in our midst?
John XXIII described Vatican II as throwing open the windows of the church and letting the Spirit blow through–are we ready for the gusts?