New Wine in a New Wineskin:
vision on The Future of The United Church of Canada
by John Lee, September 1, 2005
revision, February 9, 2006
revision, March 7, 2006
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Dentonia Park United Church is a family size
church located in the sub-urban area of the City of Toronto.
Its Sunday attendance ranges between thirty to sixty
and average age of membership is seventy as other churches
in this area. It is well known that 67% of the churches
in North America including Canada is the family size church.
Except that this congregation sustains its energy high and
recent joining of younger age group, stories of DPUC have
common aspects of majority group of the churches.
In this pastoral charge 70% of the council members
are retired persons, who have been member more than twenty years.
Three years ago at DPUC, the chair of UCW resigned after celebrating
her ninty's birthday. She tried to recruit the chairperson but
the members she contacted were already taking two to three responsibilities. As
a result UCW ceased to exist at DPUC and the works of it were
taken over by chair of the council.
United Church of Canada had a keen interest on viability
of the church in the coming years. Twelve yeas ago Reginald
Bibby had research on the United Church and predicted the
gray future regarding Church's viability after ten years.
Since then membership has been declining continually into
half the size while the 90% of the number of congregation.
In its reality, it appears as this: all the pastoral charges
that applies for settlement, now became half time pastoral charges
Our Church is still viable although it is with
some worries. It is by God's grace, I believe, that God loves
the world so much. On the other hand, the United Church people
are healthy and committed to their continued service for the
church even in their eighty's. Church's membership development
is a serious and important urgent matter that the church should do something about. Recent
launched program, "Emerging Spirit" undertook reseach
by Envionics that focused on the age group of 30 to 45 is worth
pay attention to think about future. The key concept of this
research can be summed up "postmodern ways", and its
follow up should be how to deal with postmodern ways and to
lean postmodern lifestyle.
part of my personal experience was to adopt postmodern ways
in our church works, and on top of this, to build electronic
nerve system with in the Church. It was hard to convince
churchy people: the more experience they have the harder to
convince. To renew the church into a hopeful body of Christ,
we have to change everything except our faith in Christ. People
are reluctant to the word "change" and if it becomes
"everything" that needs to be changed, they don't
listen. But I still am confident that the church should change
all things to keep its identity as the body of Christ and relevancy
to the changing world.
CHURCH"S DIRECTION FOR THE FUTURE
talk about our future church ten year from now, one should have
to project what is the shape of the society and the lifestyle
of the people after ten years. Here is a brief sketch I made
to peep into the family of new WebLifestyle.
Juno lives with his family of four and
his 80 years old mother. In the family
room, there is a wall mounted Web display screen
that shows the schedule of the day, weather
forecast, selected categorized e-news and updated
global investement porfolio.
On his way to the new client's home office,
Juno uses a card-sized WebPhone with a scroll-out
screen to find the direction through the map program that is linked to a satellite hovering above the
earth. Juno will download real-time traffic data so the
self-driving car can take the easiest route. John fills the gas with cyber cash by
using the WebPhone and also asks through it Chinese
suppliers to find information that his client needed, then to send that info to the
client's WebPhone before Juno
Juno's spouse Marg is Computer Animator
who keeps home office. Her other responsibility
at home is to educate her two children, one
in grade 1 and the other in 3. They have
home study program in WebCurriculum and they
have small group gathering for group project
on Tuesday morning and whole class gathering
on Friday morning. Most students use blog - chat or
other chatting sights study
collaboratively with same group students and other friends around the world. All
the courses are monitored by the teacher
through the WebChatting. All the subjects are
assessed individually except the group works.
nine-year-old Chris is leadign a WebClass for 30 retired persons who want to learn web
skills. He is sharing with them how he first learned to use the web
and set up his own personal homepage last
year. He has WebPals
all around the world. Next class will be on how to assemble their own homepage; how to surf for any topic through
the search engin; and how to e-shop.
Chris's gransma reads emails from
her 7 grand children around the world and
sends out her greetings through her multimedia
program. She enjoys WebShopping for her grand
children and request the same day delivery service
that gurantees 24 hour delivery. She is
now learning how to download her vital signs, blood readings, and last
night's EKG scan. If the visit to the office is required, the doctor will e-mail her to
set up a schedule through his webpage.
long term projection of the future lifestyle is almost
impossible. Even ten years is not an easy work since the world
nowadays experience the hocky stick curve development. If the
Church wants to have
any plan that fits on changing situation and environment, it
is necessary to take two
way approach, i.e., future to present and present to future.
On top of this real time monitoring and flexibility is a must since it
is like a missile tracing a moving object.
the most important thing needed in contemporary project or work is
fast information processing through building a communication tool
that can be termed as building an electronic
nerve system. It is because information and its process became
crucial element in a postmodern society. The answer for the present
problems and future direction is in two crucial aspects: adoption
of postmodern ways and build electronic nerve system.
ADOPTION OF POSTMODERN WAYS
I met young people, it is my habit that I ask if they go to
church. Their typical answer is "I used to go to Sunday
school. But not anymore." Then my next question is "Why
did you stop going to church?" Another typical answer
is "It's boring."
Many analyse this problem as generation
gap or in immigrant families, cross cultural gap. More accurate
analysis is the gap between pre/modern and postmodern lifestyle
and all the problems reside underneath the lack of communication.
improve and solve the communication problem, Church should find
the whole new communication tool that fits with postmodern lifestyle.
New wine in a new wineskin
"Neither is new wine put into old wineskins;
otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled,
and the skins are destroyed;
but new wine is put into fresh wineskins,
and so both are preserved.” (NRSV, Matthew 9:17)
Why new wine in a new wineskin?
The process of fermentation explains why.
During the process of fermentation, chemical reactions occur.
Through this process, new wine becomes old wine, and at the same time new wineskins, which are soft and flexible, become hard and rigid.
This means that if we use an old wineskin for new wine, then the wineskin breaks and the wine spills.
It is a simple method
of wine making. It also speaks of scientific and practical reasons.
Tent maker and leather expert Paul speaks of this analogy for the church’s ministry with wineskins.
Through it he speaks of wisdom for doing ministry.
What does it mean to say
“new wine in a new wineskin”
in our ministerial context?
me, new wineskin refers to our church
and new wine refers to the ingredients of the church’s ministry.
It can be refered to people with their new ways of working, thinking and acting.
Therefore the analagy tells us that we need new ways in our time.
be healthier and safer, we need to go through open discussion of pros and cons when we launch and activate any new project or programs.
Especially when it is a first trial, there are uncertainties and more chance to fail, and therefore frequent real time monitoring is a must.
If the characteristics of the community are rigid and inflexible, it is like an old wineskin and the newly launched program cannot succeed.
To enable these extra steps of additional support, the community and its members need to build a trusting relationship with flexibility through proper communication.
For instance, if any new program goes without any critical discussion between pros and cons, we cannot expect a successful result because fermentation has not taken place
may have our unique understanding of new wineskin
and new wine based on our different experiences
and ways of thinking.