JNAP Reflection – Sunday September 17, 2017
Good morning. For those of you who do not know us, this is Clara Freire and I am Bob Richards. We are members of your Joint Needs and Assessment Process Team. The other members of the team are Janet Currie, Jim Wignall, Norm Moore who is vacationing in PEI, Ruth Sword who is preaching in Elgin today and Julia Duffy who is attending her mother’s 70th birthday party. Beth Sweetman is our rep from the Ottawa Presbytery.
Our JNAP Team was created by your church Council after Bev announced her retirement and Stephane that he had been called to Emmanuel United. Our mandate is to facilitate a process to help you identify our collective needs for paid ministerial staff, as we move forward. Once approved at our Annual General Meeting in February, a Search committee will be formed to fill the recommended position or positions.
In early May we started meeting to review the prescribed Joint Needs Assessment process. Based on that we could simply make a list of the activities that we want ministry personnel to undertake, such as worship, pastoral care and administration. Instead we hope to describe a rich position or positions that embody a presence of ministry through which together we explore and live our faith.
Like the Israelites leaving Egypt to search for the promised land, we are also embarking on a journey. We invite you on this journey to become more engaged with our Christian roots so we can be radically and extravagantly inclusive, as Jesus called us to be.
To start, it is important to understand that in 1959 the United Church opened four new congregations every week – we now close 1 church every week. All of the mainstream protestant churches in Canada have declined steadily for over 50 years, starting in 1964. Congregations did not do something wrong. Instead the world changed dramatically around them and now they need to respond to these changes if they are to survive.
At Kanata United, we face significant challenges – declining attendance, recurring deficits and the ageing of our most active volunteers and largest financial contributors. We also have many blessings. We have an extremely successful Children, Youth and Family ministry. It is unheard of to have 40 children at Children’s’ time. They bring life and energy to the church and they bring their parents. As a result, half of our congregation is now less than 50 years old, again unheard of in the United Church. We have a very successful music program. We have a vibrant intergenerational community with musicals, Habitat for Humanity and youth mentors. While we initially thought the sky was falling in with all of the staff leaving, we now have a new engaging music director and inviting, meaningful worship services.
We do not expect to make radical recommendations for change. Rather we see focusing on how we can go from good to great. What is Great? That depends upon why do we exist as a Christian church. What do Christian churches do that no other organizations do? They teach about Jesus.
Many congregations have lost their grounding in the teachings of Jesus – teachings that are about love, grace, humility, acceptance, hospitality, inclusivity. Teachings that this world longs for.
These teachings are contained in scripture. The challenge is to bring these stories alive in us. As part of our journey of renewal we will together use spiritual practices to hear and share scriptural stories. This is not about saying I believe this part of the bible or I do not believe that part. This is using our imaginations to enter the teachings of Jesus, and the roots of his beliefs, to consider how they apply to us as individuals and as a faith community in this time and place.
Leonard Sweet, an American theologian wrote a book entitled The Gospel According to Starbucks. In it he talks about the Starbuck experience. Starbucks is not just coffee and morning sandwiches, it is an experience. Worship is not just a sermon and prayers, it is a spiritual experience. Thinking of worship in this way, leads to more why questions: why do we worship? Why do we worship in this fashion?
Leonard introduced an anacronym for worship and other church events – EPIC – Experiential, Participative, Image-rich and Community building. (repeat) EPIC worship can be delivered in many ways – loud and soft, showy and contemplative. Bev and Josh have been experimenting with these to give us different spiritual experiences. It is important that we provide them with our feedback.
In October, the JNAP Team will facilitate a workshop at which we will help you explore your meaningful church experiences.
Jesus did not call us to sit in the temple and have coffee with our friends. He called us to go forth and love our neighbours as our ourselves. We have good news to share, to evangelize. A scary concept for us in the United Church. But it doesn’t need to be. It starts by sitting down over coffee with community leaders to talk about what is happening in this neighbourhood. It means reaching out to our Friends, those people who support us by volunteering at the book sale but never come Sunday morning, for example, to ask them what their Kanata United experience is. It means volunteering with others to learn what motivates them. Some of these new friends will support our ministries with their time and treasures, some will join us Sunday morning and others will help us to develop new ways to explore their and our spiritualty.
Clara would like to share with you, her JNAP experience.
I was asked to speak about why I joined the JNAP and what my experience has been so far.
For me, church is a source of spirituality.
For the past while I'd been feeling something missing in my church experience. So, when I saw the announcement in the Bulletin about the forming of a JNAP. I thought I might want to do it.
And then, Bev cornered me in the hall.......well what else can I say....
Bev, notwithstanding, I wanted to contribute to the process, to bring a bit of myself, my experiences (my work at the City focuses a great deal on community engagement and promoting equity and inclusion in our services and practices) to the task. I have worked in UC sponsored social services, I have two children in CYM, and a passion and my desire to help make things better.......etc.
When we started going through the JNAP Profile 1. With questions (that we will explore with you), questions about Our People; Our Pastoral Charge; etc. I started and then got stumped on a question. The question was about vision. I couldn't answer it. Question choices like: a) we are clear about our vision and purpose; or b) our congregation is changing and it's clear we cannot keep going as we have been....etc. I could honestly say that I had no idea what our KUC vision was.
It turned out, I was not alone...this motley crew of committed church members couldn't clearly answer the question. Funny thing is, the more we talked, reflected, shifted, breathed, prayed, the clearer things became. We slowly shared experiences of feeling the spirit, of sensing Jesus in our midst. Our eyes became animated, Jesus showed us and will show us, Jesus is the reason for us, Jesus is our foundation, what grounds us, from which we can build our vision. With every challenging question and discussion so far......the process has been the same...we return to Jesus as our foundation.
I had the fortunate opportunity to travel with a group of our youth to Rendezvous in Montreal last month. (You'll hear all about it next week as the youth share about their experiences.). I'd like to take a moment to share an experience of mine. Each day at Rendezvous opened and closed with a large group worship. We sang, danced and listened. The whole thing, youth oriented thing was focused on Jesus' teachings. No one was afraid of naming him as the cornerstone of our Christian Church, our United Church. We were challenged to speak humbly, but to act boldly. I was moved to tears. I had been thinking about leaving the UC, and this experience restored my faith and energy. No one pushed it, no one evangelized, no one was excluded, everyone was included.
I came back to the JNAP with a renewed hope in our process and ability to create a vision for KUC that could carry us through the next 50 years.
This JNAP process is not about filling in a form, it's been about peeling the layers of the onion away to the centre of who we are to be; who we hope to be. We have a tremendous opportunity before us and we need your help to make the JNAP work.
Lastly, I wanted to share another story. A few weeks ago my mom came to visit. (For context, my mother has hearing deficits and her first language is not English). It was the Sunday when we walked out to the labyrinth. After the service my mother said to me, "something's different here." I said "what do you mean, ma?" "Something's different since the last time I was here. Something's different in here (pointing to her heart). "There is a meaningfulness now that wasn't present last time". My mother, a relative stranger to KUC noticed......this is our tremendous opportunity, indeed.