Our Call and Vision identifies “Deep Spirituality” as the cornerstone of our identity, not just as a church but also as individuals.
The United Church of Canada’s new vision and purpose statements are key elements of the church's strategic plan designed to shape the direction and ministry for the next three years. The Vision reads:
Called by God, as disciples of Jesus, The United Church of Canada seeks to be a bold, connected, evolving church of diverse, courageous, hope-filled communities united in deep spirituality, inspiring worship, and daring justice.
The new vision and purpose statement of the United Church involves three key phrases:
- Deep spirituality
- Bold discipleship
- Daring justice
In this series of blog posts, we will explore each line and the insights they offer for our personal faith experience and our witness as Christ’s church. (These reflections could be used as inspiration for your own. Please let us know if you have sermons, reflections, or ideas to share to animate the United Church’s Call and Vision statements.)
Call and Vision: Deep Spirituality
Bill’s response shocked me. We were completing an exercise in confirmation class. The program involved a monthly session with youth in Grade 9 and their mentors. Each young person was partnered with an adult in the congregation. They attended the monthly session together and then had a second meeting with just the two of them, following an outline that explored the subject of the class further. This session was on prayer.
All class activities were undertaken by both youth and mentors. Early in the lesson, I invited them to take their place along a line. At one end of the line were those who never prayed outside of worship and at the other were those who prayed daily. It was my experience, bearing in mind this was 20 years ago, that even the youth often fell in the middle. Many of them had been taught bedtime childhood prayers that they sometimes still recited. What I was not prepared for was one of the adults to land at never, but that was what Bill did.
Bill was a retired educator that I recruited as a mentor because he was skilled at drawing out young people who were there because their parents had forced them to be. I often paired him with the young person I expected to engage least. Bill would connect with them and they would attend and participate. Bill was a trustee and a member of the church council. He had words of wisdom and insight in each of these settings. I valued his input. Most Sundays, he attended worship. Bill also had a grandchild who needed a heart transplant before their first birthday, so his experience with stress was first-hand. But here he was sharing that he never prayed.
To be fair to Bill, I suspect he was more typical than atypical of the men of his generation. Many years earlier, one of my predecessors had held a monthly men’s lunch where the men in the congregation shared a meal and discussed a topic. But that had long ended. Unless they attended a study group, there was no opportunity for men to gather to pray beyond worship compared to the opportunity UCW provided women for spiritual growth. Once the shock passed, dismay took its place. How had the church so failed Bill that we had not given him the tools to draw close to God?
That is what spirituality is: drawing close to God. In worship, we do that corporately—as a congregation. But what tools do we have to do it privately? Prayer is certainly one. Prayer is opening our lives to God. It can be with words or through music or using many other forms. For some people, it is solitude in nature. For others, it is quieting and settling themselves with tools like meditation or mandalas, the original adult colouring activity. For me, it is writing in a journal.
For Bill it was worship, and that experience formed him into a man dedicated to serving his church. I only wonder how much more personal that experience may have been for him if he had had other tools, like one of these forms of prayer or a group with whom to study, to deepen his intimacy with God.
What our new mission statement says is that this experience of intimacy with God is the starting point for each of us. It is grounded in worship and prayer, study and scripture. Deep spirituality is the joy of those who know they are loved and held by God and who long to run into God’s embrace. Deep spirituality is the cornerstone of our identity, not just as a church but also as individuals.
— Cheryl-Ann Stadelbauer-Sampa is the Executive Minister of The United Church of Canada's Antler River Watershed, Western Ontario Waterways, and Horseshoe Falls Regional Councils.
This blog post was originally published as a reflection that makes up part of the United Church’s Call and Vision worship resources.
The views contained within these blogs are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of The United Church of Canada.