As part of the GC42 Prayer Pilgrimage, Moderator Gary Paterson has written a series of blog posts around the question, “So What’s a Good Church For?” This is Part 3: “Naming Core Values.” Here are Parts 1 and 2.
As I pondered what I was saying about the core purpose of the church, I found myself thinking about many of the words and phrases that I have heard these past three years about the values that in some way define the United Church. Were there some characteristics that, if not unique to the United Church, did, in fact, when taken together, describe our denomination in a special way? I thought back to the reason that I let my name stand for the position of Moderator, which was that I felt a deep passion for the United Church, and knew that we were facing challenges, and maybe I could be helpful in this time. It’s not that I am completely invested in the survival of an “institution” (well, I sort of am… it’s “my” church), but much more, I am committed to the voice that the United Church offers to the world and within the Christian community, to its understanding and interpretation of the gospel.
So, here is some of what I heard being suggested as core values of the United Church:
- inclusiveness, hospitality, and big-tent diversity;
- willingness to have courageous conversations, engaged in the world, justice-centred;
- committed to thinking about our faith, with room for questions;
- congregational and united,( and even uniting?)
What else would you add? What feels like a distinctive value that you would name as being essential to what makes the United Church what it is?
And then another question – how do these values relate to the central vision? Are they fruits of the Spirit, the consequences or the results of an encounter with God? Or is it more helpful, perhaps to understand them as a way of experiencing the vision, that actually living out these values is what occasions the “encounter with God”?
The members of the Comprehensive Review Task Group struggled a lot with questions like these, in consultations and discussion. Surprisingly – or perhaps not – they found themselves returning to the words of “A New Creed” (1968) as one of the best expressions of our vision, our mission, and they used that statement of faith to shape what they had to say. Maybe take another look at the opening pages of “United in God’s Work” [PDF] – not the six proposals with all the backgrounders that we will be discussing and making decisions about at General Council, but rather, the “Invitation,” the “Prayer,” and the “Vision” (pages 4-7).
How might this be helpful as we continue our pilgrimage to Corner Brook?
Photo: Carlos Andrés Reyes, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)