The new moderator of the United Church of Canada says Christians, rooted in the story of the crucifixion and resurrection, should be “brave enough to believe that even a church can be raised from the dead.”
A poet and a dynamic preacher, the Rev. Gary Paterson became the new moderator of the United Church of Canada at last summer’s 41st General Council meeting. David Wilson, editor of The United Church Observer, told the Anglican Journal that he found Paterson’s five-minute nomination speech “electrifying.”
In an interview, Paterson said church renewal depends on members regaining their “sense of hope” and communicating that hope without resorting to heavy-handed religious rhetoric. The church must speak up for the homeless, the mentally ill, those in prisons, and for the environment, and those ministries need to be visible if people are to connect. “The world is also beloved by God and we will meet the Christ out there.”
He sees signs of church renewal in outward-reaching ministries springing up across the country. In Vancouver, for instance, he personally found that talking about popular films helped people connect to theology. In an annual sermon series, for instance, Paterson looked at how the Oscar nominees for best film intersect with the gospel. Batman presented a good opportunity for Paterson to talk about chaos and evil while Avatar provided a framework for examining what it means to care for the earth. People responded and church attendance climbed. “We suddenly got another 50 to 100 people in worship on the five Sundays that I was doing that kind of preaching,” he told the Journal.
As the first openly gay moderator, Paterson also hopes his presence will stimulate discussion not unlike that which took place before, during and after the election (and re-election) of U.S. President Barack Obama.”… [Obama’s presence] made huge statements about African Americans in positions of power and politics in the U.S. by not making any statements at all,” says the Observer’s Wilson. “I think this is the same dynamic.”