Beloved in Christ,
The Episcopal Church (that’s the equivalent of the Anglican Church of Canada in the US) recently published updated statistics that measured four key areas: church membership, average Sunday attendance, baptisms, and marriages. These numbers have been declining for decades now but the last 20 years in particular have seen a steeper slide.
This is a familiar story for Canadian Anglicans who are even further along in terms of decline, a reality that has called forth a “wake-up call” from Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. It’s a reality that every one of us is invited, by Jesus, to remedy. “It’s asking of us a lot more creativity, at every level of the church, and a lot less waiting for somebody else to fix it,” says Archbishop Nicholls. “The creativity needs to come right from the grassroots, from the people in the pews.”
If I may be so bold, “creativity” is not the adjective that I would use. It suggests that what may be needed is a new or different method. A little tweak here, a fresh coat of paint there and voila! I believe, however, that God has called each one of us into new life with him, shown us what we need to do, and has already given us everything we need. Therefore, I believe the virtue we most stand in need of exercising is not creativity but rather courage.
When our blessed Lord had conquered death and risen from the grave he gathered his disciples and, before ascending to heaven, he gave them a task and a promise. The task: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” And the promise: “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:18-20).
It’s simple, as members of the Church you and I have one job: to make new followers of Jesus. That’s it. How? By going, baptizing, and teaching other people. Who? Everyone and anyone! And we’re called to remember, Jesus is with us always. That means we’re never alone and we never have to rely on our own gifts or capacity or education or experience. Jesus, who conquered death (!), never leaves your side. So you can do this (yes, you!).
That’s why, despite the statistics, I am hopeful for the future of the Church in Canada. Because the remedy is straightforward and achievable. Because everyone and anyone can learn to make new followers of Jesus. Because the God who conquered the grave is with us. Over the coming months the focus of my own notes to you in this space will be on the gift and task of evangelism. You’ll also be hearing testimonies from parishioners about the difference that Jesus has made for them. So buckle up, it’s going to be a fun ride!
Under the mercy,