What if we could change the story about Christianity? Change the story about Community of Christ?
Currently, the story I hear around congregations is one of death and concern for the future. One that talks about times gone by where there were lots of people in the pews, there were three services on a Sunday, and when our youth groups had 50 kids in them. Those times were good times. We talk about them with fondness and consider it the pinnacle of what we looked like when we were successful as a church body. We regularly mention the names of great patriarchs passed and recall testimony of their visionary contributions. In comparison, we look at the state of our congregations today. A small amount of youth scattered around areas, buildings closing their doors, and reunions getting smaller and smaller.
This is one story. But what about the others?
Like the story of a woman who has battled depression her whole life, raising her children in a home where even she struggles to get out of bed. This woman, carrying her black dog beside her, with what seemed like a last gasp of dignity, asked for help. Help that came in the simple form of a food basket and a cup of tea. Welcomed, dog and all into the community, this woman found a place she felt comfortable and accepted, a place where she could give of her time, and found a friend.
This is our story.
Or the story of a young adult who lost his way in life, walking the fine line between jail and death. This man, through the simple act of a caring question was moved to tell his story and change his life in a way so drastic that even his family couldn’t believe what was happening. A change that enabled him to have a stable job, a roof to live under and a caring community.
This is our story.
We hear a story about how Christianity is withering like a fig tree, where no one goes to church and Christians are seen in society as conservatives and by some as exclusivists. We are seen as people who exclude, rather than include. As organisations that abuse power and tax law rather than generous and compassionate givers. What if we have become that story? What if we have lived into that story without even knowing it?
What if we were to write a new story?
Jesus re-wrote the story for his people. He created a new life that threw tables, saved a single sheep and hugged an erratic runaway. He changed the story of religion, moving it from a place of exclusivity and power to a place of refuge for the poor and the mistreated. A place where people now conversed with the God within, rather than the God on high. A place where religion was not about sacrificing goats but sacrificing the pursuit for short-lived glory.
What if we changed the story?
What if at our meetings we talked about how we were making a difference in the lives of people rather than losing people? What if we were to talk about how to include people rather than mandate against certain life choices? What if we were to harness our power for love and compassion by stopping to have a conversation with someone about their spirit rather than the weather? What if we were to dismantle patriarchal legacy and embrace the simple, profound vision that God calls us to actualise? What if you, nay, what if I chose the path to transformation by simply choosing to think about what I have rather than what I am lacking? What if instead of telling the story of how one congregation has closed due to lack of numbers and instead chose to tell of the amazing generosity they continue to give to the community and beyond? You’re not too old, too young, too shy or too busy. You can ask someone how they are. I can respond by telling the truth when someone asks me how I am.
Tell a new story.
“Here in this place a new light is streaming. Not in the dark of buildings confining, not in some heaven light years away, but here in this place the new light is shining; now is the kingdom and now is the day.”
– “Gather Us In” – Community of Christ Sings #72
GATHER US IN
Words and Music: Marty Haugen, 1950–
Words and Music © 1982 GIA Publications, Inc.
License number: 74431
A Community of Christ Sings resource
Photo of books from: http://venturegalleries.com/blog/why-do-we-love-books/