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Building community around humanistic values.


Question & Answer

Q: By Reader from the Internet
Would it be fair for me to promote the notion that you – a self-declared atheist leading a United Church of Canada congregation – and your church are generally promoting humanist values as well as providing the community benefits that churches normally provide?
A: By Rev. Gretta Vosper
Dear Reader,


What we do is build community around humanistic values. I believe very strongly that humans flourish in community and that when humans flourish, they engage beyond themselves investing in the people and the world around them. The liberal church has hemorrhaged from the left for decades, but many who have left have not found their way to communities that support them and offer the broad perspective that the same liberal church they left often does, mostly because those communities don’t exist. (The liberal church, in my opinion, had a responsibility to create them, but that is a whole other conversation!)

When I speak on Sundays, I’m talking about world issues, personal well-being, parenting challenges, dying with dignity, the whole swath. We deal with it all and still do the stuff of church. For example, we celebrate the birth of a child and gather around a table for communion, served and received in a unique way, consistent with our values. We stand up and sing songs. We hold the typical church fundraising events.

But what all these things really do is build relationships. In preparation for our Holiday Bazaar, for instance, a group of women met for almost a year making crafts. Another group came together the week before to put everything together. On the day of, everyone donned Santa or elf hats and laughed their way through the day, dealing with customers with happy faces. Afterward, there was a bunch of stuff left that needed to be dealt with so another group got together and cleared it all out. It sounds like ordinary volunteer work, I know. And it is. But the goodwill and serotonin that is created when people come together in community is transformational. Never let anyone underestimate the importance of what I call the “off-label benefits of religion.”

~ Rev. Gretta Vosper

This Q&A was originally published on Progressing Spirit – As a member of this online community, you’ll receive insightful weekly essays, access to all of the essay archives (including all of Bishop John Shelby Spong), and answers to your questions in our free weekly Q&A. Click here to see free sample essays.

About the Author

The Rev. Gretta Vosper is a United Church of Canada minister who is an atheist. Her best-selling books include With or Without God: Why The Way We Live is More Important Than What We Believe, and Amen: What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief. She has also published three books of poetry and prayers.

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