Patch, re-use, make-do. These words from my childhood are coming back into vogue so I will put them to good use in this column.
It was my privilege last Sunday to be the guest speaker at the 110th anniversary of Sharon United Church, Stewiacke East. It was a return home. I first stood in that pulpit in the summer of 1960 and for six years served as their Minister. I will patch and reuse what I said on that occasion.
Getting our minds back 110 years is not easy. No cars, phones, radios, televisions, computers, not even electricity. Yet life was full. Hard work. Community life. Everything was available right in the local area. Many small communities were growing and becoming complete in themselves. And any self-respecting community needed a church. It was a time of energy and optimism.
That was then. This is now. I was ordained in 1956 so many of the changes have happened in my lifetime. Those were the glory days of the church. The post-war boom was still flourishing and the churches were bulging at the seams. Then came the 1960’s. A social revolution happened. Campuses erupted demanding social change. There were The Beatles, the Woodstock Folk Festival and Bob Dylan’s raspy voice singing, The Times They Are A-changing. And the times were changing.
The Church did not escape. Something shifted in the collective psyche. Religion lost its hold and its aliveness for many people. On April 8th, 1966 there was the famous Time magazine cover. It was all black except for big red letters asking “Is God Dead?” On one hand, the church has been in a reactionary conservative mode ever since. On the other hand, very creative things have been happening.
There has been the rise of the feminine. Women are taking their rightful place in much of the church, as well as in society in general. Five thousand years of patriarchy is being confronted. The struggle is not nearly over but a good start has been made.
Another positive is the rise of interest in spirituality. “I’m spiritual, not religious” is a common mantra. A church that is, for many, failing to provide any real connection with the Ultimate has left a vacuum. People are feeling the reality of something spiritual, of a divine dimension, and are searching many spiritualities.
And a New Story is beginning to emerge, the foundation of which is The Universe Story. You are a child of the Universe. Everyone of whatever race, colour or creed is a child of the Universe. It is the great uniting story, of which I have written many times.
Another dimension of the New Story is how we understand and relate to the Ultimate. We of the New Story no longer see God as the big guy in the sky pulling the strings. That is the image of God, a way of understanding God, that has died. Now we tend to vision the Ultimate as the creative energy that is in and through everything. God is the Eros of the Universe. God is not a being up there; God is the energy we call love. Indeed, many images now connect us with the Great Mystery.
Finally the New Story shifts our focus from heaven to earth. The Old Testament is not about heaven. It is about life here. Jesus parables and pithy sayings are about life here. He was teaching about a realm of love and justice that was opposite to the coercive, oppressive rule of Rome.
The New Story involves us. Because of our gift of consciousness we are co-creators with the creative power of the Universe. We are now responsible for the future of the earth. There will be no supernatural divine intervention to save us from ourselves. We have to become the mature, responsible people who can establish a just and caring society.
This is an exciting time. This New Story is growing in the hearts and minds of more and more people. Groups, such as the one to which Emily and I belong, are meeting to discuss these things. A group of Progressive Christians are meeting this coming Monday and Tuesday at Tatamagouche Centre. All over the world and in every religion there is an awakening to a grander vision and a more inclusive story.
Join the parade.
Originally published on religiondispatches.org.