A few New Year’s resolutions for the church in 2008

Published January 2, 2008

The beginning of the calendar year is often a time to resolve to do things differently, to do better; it’s a clean slate, a fresh start, a time to reinvent oneself (just ask the gyms and the weight loss industry).

We vow to exercise more, eat less, abstain from our vices and become the people we hope and want to be. By early February, our good intentions have been tested and, too often, found lacking (just ask the gyms and the weight loss industry). But those failures – both major and minor – rarely stop us from striving to be better year after year.

This is a good thing. When we fail to grow as humans and Christians, we fail to realize our full potential.

So, I wonder: Can a church have New Year’s resolutions? Perhaps they would not be as simple to tack to one’s refrigerator as reminders, but we as members of the Body of Christ could certainly aim for some goals. Some of these are not completely original; they are ideas that have been mentioned by church members and leaders of all stripes.

1.     In this time of uncertainty faced by the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Communion worldwide, we will strive for graciousness. As some conservative clergy and parishes consider whether their future is with the Canadian church or an Anglican province far from our shores, and as some liberal-minded members decide they can no longer wait for the church to welcome all God’s children completely, there will certainly be difficult encounters with each other. Some of these cannot help but be adversarial. But it might help to remember that this is a time of sadness for many on all points of the political spectrum. It is possible to reach amicable agreements if there is the will on both sides to do so.  

2.     We will resist ascribing impure motives to those whose beliefs are markedly different from ours; we will assume (unless absolutely proven otherwise) that their motivation is their faith and core beliefs.

3.     We will keep events of the day in perspective. While some announcements and gatherings may feel portentous and groundbreaking, we must not forget that other events in recent decades felt like seismic shifts at the time but ultimately did not prove to be the critical turning points that many predicted at the time.

4.     We will communicate clearly and transparently; we will say what we mean and mean what we say. We will resist making statements that are so skilfully nuanced they are completely opaque. When we have not been clear in our communications, we will admit our errors and resist blaming others for misunderstanding us.

5.     We will concentrate not only on the numbers of people in our pews but in the number of people we help outside our church doors. Maintaining (and increasing, when possible) the numbers on our rolls is critical for all churches, but we turn God’s church into a members’ only club if we are insular, serving our own members, and celebrating only ourselves. The Body of Christ exists beyond our doors.

6.     We will not be afraid to talk about stewardship; our gifts to our church are our gifts to God. They make ministry happen and if we are only giving enough to keep the lights on in our church buildings, it will only be a matter of time before those lights are extinguished. Often, say gift planners, donors are surprised and delighted to be asked and one request may be all that is needed. May church leaders at all levels learn how to ask their members to be good stewards and may church members see the awesome potential of their gifts, both large and small.

What do you think of our resolutions? These are only a few suggestions; readers will certainly have more. In 150 words or less, what is your New Year’s resolution as a Canadian Anglican? Please send to [email protected] or Anglican Journal, 80 Hayden St., Toronto, Ont., M4Y 3G2.


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