For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1
Not only is there a time for everything, but the changing times mean finding different ways to share the Gospel. Over the past four years, Kildonan United Church has sought many new ways to share the Gospel with those who need to hear the message of love and hope. While change is never easy, we have to recognise that for too long now, Churches have not done a very good job of reaching out to people. We have been content to sit inside our buildings and wait for people to come in “our” doors. The results are painful to behold: declining congregations and a community which thinks that most Churches are irrelevant.
A year ago, we started Friday evening worship services called Worship with a Twist. The last year has been, and remains, a learning experience, but attendance and interest are encouraging. Of course, Worship with a Twist does not appeal to everyone; nor does a traditional Sunday morning worship service appeal to everyone either. One thing I will guarantee this year is that Friday Worship will in no way resemble Sunday morning. That is not to say there is but one right way to worship God. They are different services which appeal to different people.
In advertising the first Worship with a Twist for this year, Friday September 9, I said that it will be even more twisted. That is not to pour scorn on what we do on a Sunday morning, or get into the faces of those who prefer a more traditional service, but it does speak to the needs of the people who attend on a Friday evening. Young people do not sit still. I had a hard time sitting still when a youngster, and I walked away from the Church as a teenager because I got tired of people telling me to sit still and listen. I may have been fidgeting, but I was listening; even though most of the services I attended were, quite frankly, irrelevant to the struggles I was facing back then.
I continue to struggle with Church, especially with the United Church. I do not like the direction the United Church is headed. I think we have set a course which is disastrous, and I lament how little attention we dedicate to worship. Too many of my colleagues, and too many lay leaders too, speak as if the weight of salvation rests on their shoulders. Yes, Friday worship may be twisted, but one thing that will never change in my preaching is the fundamental belief that there is one Saviour for the Church and the world, our Lord Jesus Christ. Whether at a funeral, a wedding, Sunday morning or Friday evening, I will continue to preach Jesus, crucified and risen that we might have new life in him.
The way that message is preached must be made relevant. We cannot continue to worship in a vacuum. As John Donne wrote: No man is an island…every man…is a part of the main. The Church cannot be divorced from its surrounding community. Our worship has to meet the needs of the worshippers.
Of course, with the young people, and older people who have begun attending the Kildonan United Church, there are many special needs. Our doors are open to all regardless of economic background, race, gender or sexual orientation, etc. It is sad that I feel the need to spell that out but, given the stories I hear on a regular basis, it does need to be said, and it needs to be said loudly and often. Last year, we began Worship with a Twist to explore an alternative worship service; not merely an alternative time, but a completely different way to worship. This year, we have set out on the path towards becoming an Affirming congregation. However, as I have expressed to the Committee, this is not being done so that we can hang another label on our walls and pat ourselves on the backs for being good, upstanding Christians. No! We are doing this because 40% of transgendered teens kill themselves. We are doing this because, despite United Church claims to the contrary, we are not welcoming the LGBT community into our circles. In fact, we do a terrible job of welcoming anyone who lives on the margins: we are as guilty as corporate Canada in worshipping the almighty dollar.
Also this year, we will be starting a teenager group. You know most of the teens who come to this Church, and the challenges they face, not only as teens, but as teens who live on the Autism Spectrum. I remember it hard enough being a teen, and I suspect that the pressures today are even more pronounced; the struggles increase enormously with ASD. Again, this is the Kildonan United Church trying to be relevant to its community.
And so I come back to Worship with a Twist. I want to use this time to speak to issues that are relevant to the community. But, it has to be in a fun way. I have spoken in Church of the increased volume in people who visit the Church needing help. We are a part of the community and the people who come here needing some succour and support are our community. The first Friday evening gathering of the year I am entitling Messy Olympics. Yes, it will be messy, because lots of young people like to get messy. There is little that is messier than food. Now, I do not like to waste food, but I am doing this to draw attention to the hungry people who live not far from the doors of this building. I am also suggesting that all of us, no matter how poor, can help someone else. We may not be able solve the problem of hunger in our community, but we can begin by being aware and by helping a few people.
No, it may not be traditional worship, but if through play and making a mess, we learn to appreciate the gifts with which we are blessed, and to thank our heavenly Creator for those gifts, and we learn to share our blessings, then it is worship. Furthermore, it is worshipping in a way that is relevant to some members of the community in which we live and work, in a way that the Church has spectacularly failed to do for far too long.
When you attend worship on September 9th, please bring a can of food for the food bin.
In the name of our Lord and Saviour,