Scarcity thinking is crippling us both as faith communities and as residents in Victoria. We are afraid there is not enough to go around and things are not the way they used to be. Sometimes this is for good reason. There is not enough affordable housing available to rent or own. There are not enough primary care physicians. Neighbours are hustling with part-time jobs next to their full-time jobs, anxious about paying their rent or mortgage. We find ourselves grappling with these questions living on the unceded territory of Legwunken-speaking peoples, belonging to nations who were never compensated for the theft of land. We worry about the climate crisis and rising sea levels. And yet we live together in a place of remarkable natural beauty, concentration of wealth, and reserves of talent.
I do not have space here to trace all the root causes of the above issues, but people experiencing pain already know this reality firsthand and have their own stories to share. While these problems are real, living under the grip of fear is not life giving. Feeling anxious does not restore our divided selves. Increasing our hustle and competition among one another will not change the systemic issues that have brought us here.
Instead of being divided further from one another, now is a time as church and community for gathering people together. Now is a time to proclaim and live out a message of grace. In other words our value is not measured by our material success and productivity. We are already valued members of the community and we are good enough. Working and together and valuing one another, we are better positioned to tackle our shared problems.
I can empathize not everyone identifies church with grace. For many people church has been a place of exclusion rather than inclusion. Despite great obstacles before us, faith communities have at times of crisis also been a source of progress. Consider the work of Tommy Douglas helping build universal healthcare in Canada, and until recently, unsung leaders of the Civil Rights movement in Canada such as Viola Desmond, fighting for racial equality through direct action. These leaders understood their work towards justice for all to be rooted in faith traditions. Progressive faith-based movements continue today in various ways, but don’t always make front-page news. What would a movement look like around Victoria, centring voices of people on the margins most adversely affected by social and economic problems?
Churches increasingly need to work together with other faith and community groups. Today is an opportunity for solidarity with Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, queer, refugee, and immigrant neighbours, often bearing the brunt of hate. It is also an opportunity to build trust with those outside faith communities in an increasingly secularized world.
In his new book Dear Church, Lenny Duncan is waking up the church to this great opportunity we have before us today. He acknowledges there are some congregations and church structures running their course, for which we give thanks and celebrate their contribution, while others are in a position to take on renewed mission and purpose. We are standing at a moment in history which we can let us pass by or we can take a leap of faith, opening our doors and forging new partnerships. We need to risk failure, trusting that we may also succeed, all our boats rising together.
Lyndon Sayers is co-pastor at Lutheran Church of the Cross, Victoria.
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, Augyst 24th 2019