Faith in a Time of Change: Selections from EmergingSpirit.ca Edited by Michael Kooiman. ©2010 United Church of Canada 127 pages.
This book was created as the United Church of Canada's Emerging Spirit project reached the end of its lifespan. In addition to the magazine ads and the WonderCafe website (the most visible parts of the campaign) this project included the website emergingspirit.ca. One of the features of that site was a series of daily blog posts, a selection of which have been put into this book. In an Introductory piece Michael Kooiman describes how the selections were made and how the book was put together.
In editing the book Kooiman has attempted to group the entries by topic (although he also admits that this is in some ways a futile effort). And so we have sections: The Church in a Time of Change, Seeking a New Vision, Hospitality in the Emerging Church. A Call to Be Stewards, Worship and the New Church, Reflections on Leadership, and Emerging Theology. Writers for the book all have brief biographies at the back and are a mix of ordered and lay, male and female, young and old (just as one might expect in a United Church of Canada publication)
As I sit down to write this review it strikes me how difficult it is to review something like this. There is no one coherent argument or topic being addressed, instead there are all sorts of related and not related topics. There are posts that openly contradict each other –such as in the leadership section where one post ponders the creation of “A Program for Excellence” such as we find in elite athletics and two pages later another post calls us to consider “Rejecting Excellence”. Both well written, both worth reading, both raising salient points.
And yet it strikes me that as we try to listen to where and who God is calling us to be as a church this is the very type of volume we need to read more often. One that intentionally has no one clear, coherent argument or vision, one that does not claim to give us the “right” answer (when first typing this I mistyped and wrote fight answer – a Freudian slip perhaps?). This is a book that makes the reader think, both about the church as it is and the church as it might/could/will become.
When I started reading Faith in a Time of Change (thought it would be nice to get the title in again) I thought I would try and note my favourite entries to include in this review. I couldn't. Every time I pick the book up and flip through it again a different entry jumps out at me. Luckily it is a fairly quick read because I may find myself revisiting it over and over again. And more than likely I will highlight different things in my heart and soul each time.
Did I agree with everything I read? No. Did I disagree with everything? No. But I repeatedly found myself wishing I could sit down for coffee and discussion with the writers. “What did that mean? “ “How did the trial work?” “Could you say more about...?” “Why would you say...?” were questions that I heard myself asking in these imagined discussions. And in the end that is why I liked the book so much.
If you want a book that will tell you how to be a “successful” church (and I have no idea what successful means in that phrase) in today and tomorrow's world look elsewhere. And, might I add, good luck since personally I doubt such a thing truly exists. But if you want a book to spark discussion, something that could be shared with your Board or Study Group and get people talking then you would be well served by Faith in a Time of Change. The writers ring out as being honest and faithful, occasionally wrestling with hard stuff and trying to find comfort with a degree of ambiguity. And that, in my opinion, is just what we need as the church today –in fact we need it more than someone claiming to have the quick fix.
Finally, as a child of the Star Wars generation (who still thinks we were best served by the original trilogy) and who has often used the Force as a theological image, I have to say that any book whose cover photo appears to have Force lightning shining from a stained glass window is worth a look.
Rev Gord Waldie
Remember, the Force will be with You – always.