What does it mean to be the church in this time and place? What might be the future for the church and how might we engage within the ministry of Christ as the church here in Canberra?
This piece is my viewpoint on these questions. To that end, whilst I could talk about “fresh expressions,” missional projects or the call upon each of us to be witnesses for Christ; in this article I am focusing on congregational life. Specifically, I will identify three characteristics with which I believe every congregation needs to engage.
Firstly, is the intentional reimagination of worship. Often we continue with the worship style in which we were nurtured and with which we are comfortable. We may make nominal changes in an attempt to be more relevant or inclusive. On the whole, however, worship is pretty much what we know and like.
To be a church engaging in the ministry of Christ and with the broader community we must intentionally reimagine our worship. Rather than continue out of habit with what we know we need to reflect upon our mission as a congregation and reimagine our worship accordingly, shaped by the context in which we live out our faith, the ministry we perceive that Jesus is calling us to and the vision of the people we believe Jesus is calling us to be. This will involve the loss of many cherished aspects of worship which have been beneficial in the past. However, the way in which Jesus leads us is the way of laying down our life, that in doing so, life is found.
Secondly is the call to be an intercultural church. This is different to being a multicultural church. Multiculturalism recognizes and celebrates our diversity. Interculturalism invites us to be vulnerable to being impacted and shaped by our diversity. A multicultural church has many different cultures present but may otherwise be unchanged. Intercultural church makes space to hear each other’s stories, including our stories of pain. Intercultural church makes space that language, practice and values across our diversity is experienced and it shapes who we are as a people of God. Intercultural church surrenders and shares power across our cultural diversity.
Our communities are culturally diverse, and we must engage with this diversity. The church in the book of Acts was incredibly diverse culturally. This was not always an easy journey for the early church but as we read the New Testament we discover how the church engaged with this diversity and was enriched and shaped by its intercultural nature. The church today and into the future must similarly engage with the call to being intercultural. In doing so we more fully express who we are as God’s people and are enriched in our life and ministry.
Finally, may our life and ministry as the church embrace all creation. For too long the dominant Christian theologies and practices have ignored or even dismissed the fullness of the world in which we live. This has been contrary to the biblical story, to our own diminishment as the church and to the detriment of the ministry to which we are called. Our faith has so much to offer the world in the ecological crisis we currently experience. We need to embrace all creation in our theology, spirituality, worship and mission for the sake of the world.
As said, this is not the entirety of being Christ’s church into the future but I believe the engagement with these three characteristics of intentional reimagining worship, being an intercultural church and embracing all creation in our life and ministry will lead us on the way.
Rev. Dr Paul Chalson is the Minister at Canberra City Uniting Church.
Image: Rev. Dr Paul Chalson. (Supplied).