Last Sunday the whole congregation spent time reflecting on our values, and especially what those values might look like if we tried to live them out in our life together at LPCC. Listening to people discuss the exercise, I decided that almost everyone enjoyed it. But it led to some further reflection on my part too.
The society we live in is changing. People’s level of trust in institutions like banks, auto companies, government agencies like the police, and non-profits like the church is in steep decline. We cannot assume that because we have built it (the church building) they will come. In fact, it is highly likely that they won’t. We’ve seen this change in our neighbourhood over the past fifty years. We are no longer the church that nearly everyone in Lawrence Park attended at least occasionally and most were members of. And what is true for us in Lawrence Park is true for nearly every church in every neighbourhood in Canada. The halcyon days for church membership are past.
Does that make us irrelevant? Well, yes and no. Yes, our influence as a societal player is way down. The government no longer seeks the counsel of UCC moderators before deciding major policy issues. But we are not irrelevant if each one of us who does go to church takes our values, the ones we posted in the sanctuary, and makes them come alive wherever we go, and whatever we do.
All institutions are less trusted. Many—service clubs come to mind, like Rotary—are in decline. But people are everywhere, including United Church people. We are bankers and police officers, government officials and school teachers, parents and writers and scholars. And as such we cannot help but bring our values to bear on the work we do. We ought to embrace that possibility. We ought to be self-conscious about the opportunities we have to exercise influence. We ought to seize every opportunities we have to make the world a better place.
So, the values exercise matters. It matters because we want as a church to embody those values. But my challenge to church members is to make sure that the exercise doesn’t stay in the church. Take our values out into society—and make not just the church, but the whole world, a better place.