Ed Brown in his letter (Choices, December Journal) makes a telling remark, especially when a few pages later we read about the Canadian bishops’ discussions around the membership decline in the Anglican Church of Canada. Referring to his preference for Book of Common Prayer (BCP) worship, Mr. Brown writes, “We opted to worship in the way we preferred … ” Opting to worship in their preferred way probably describes what most Canadian Anglicans have chosen to do whether their preference is for the BCP or the Book of Alternative Services. Of course preferences in worship go beyond the two books. Canadian Anglicans generally opt for different styles of worship such as traditional organ and choir, contemporary worship, or some combination of the two. I wonder, though, if allowing individual preferences to drive us this way might really be an indication of having missed the point of what it means to be the church.
It is not about us. The church is not here for the satisfaction of our likes and dislikes. Jesus calls us to be far more than a religious reflection of the surrounding culture. Until we get our heads around this the Anglican Church of Canada will continue to spin its wheels on a steady slide toward oblivion.
But it does not have to be this way. The Church of England has produced a document entitled Mission-Shaped Church that shines like a beacon of light in the darkness of decline. It transfers very well to the Canadian context. If we are truly looking for positive solutions to our current dilemma, some disciplined study of Mission-Shaped Church just may help us develop a vision for congregations that are shaped by mission rather than by personal preference.
Rev. Ross Gill