(This column first appeared in the September issue of the Anglican Journal.)
This was an exciting summer for my family. There was the restful time away on a quiet island, visits with family and outdoor meals with friends. Among the highlights of these summer months, one stands out: the July 15 groundbreaking ceremony for our new home. The occasion gathered together local dignitaries, our team of professionals, and of course, the community responsible for building Vancouver’s first co-housing project.
It took two and a half years of hard work to get us to this point. Two and a half years of meetings, of planning, and fundraising. Two and a half years of decisions: good, bad and hard. Two and a half years of dreaming and planning and practising what it would be like to live in a community intentionally designed to facilitate social interaction and intergenerational community.
This has been no small feat in the face of bureaucratic red tape and neighbourhood opposition. And yet, our small and determined group persevered.
The groundbreaking was an emotional event. With machinery on-site and the first layer of topsoil already gone, the sense of home became real, even if move-in is still 14 months away.
Over the past two and a half years, we’ve learned the importance of fighting for what we care about. Many times along the way we felt like giving up. We could have given up, but what would become of the vision?
When I think of our beloved church—this beautiful community of the baptized from coast to coast (and beyond!)—the same thoughts cross my mind. Called by Christ, and inspired by God’s spirit to embody and proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom, we have something even more worth fighting for. As important as my future home may be, it pales in comparison to the vision of home, the community of shalom that Jesus invites us into.
In Jesus, God’s kingdom has come near. The cycles of death and violence have been broken. The great empires and powers of this world will inevitably fall away. And God calls us to be co-creators of this new world! As Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts it, “God without you won’t; you without God can’t.”
But being Christian is no longer normal, proper or cool in the eyes of the world. As we participate with God in this world-changing, home-making work, we will face opposition. This reinforces our dependence upon Christ and the Christian community. It reminds us that we need a deeply rooted sense of why Jesus’ gospel is good news and who it is good news for today.
I truly believe that we have entered a new era for Christian formation. An era where we, along with ministry leaders, Christian educators, clergy and bishops, are being called to redouble our efforts in developing enduring, holistic Christian formation. No longer can we get by with some basic knowledge about Christianity and periodic attendance at worship. In a world suspicious of, and at odds with the Christian gospel, we need to cultivate a new way of life.
Such a way of life will require practices that nurture our connection to God, God’s good creation and one another. This need is as great for those of us who were raised in the church as for those who are new to the Christian faith. For my own part, these are things of which I constantly need to be reminded. Almsgiving, common worship, hospitality, justice, penance, prayer and scripture reading are all a part of our formation and transformation.
Along the way, the answers don’t always come easily. But one question, above all, will become a guiding light: “What is the next most faithful step we can take for the sake of Christ today?”