National Centre for Progressive Christianity Gathering in Halifax, August 15-17
By Don Murray, Brookfield, RR#2 NS
“It was a time of the changing of the gods.” So begins the 1966 motion picture Hawaii. That was in the midst of the social, cultural, and religious upheaval of the nineteen sixties. It was then that the exodus from the mainline churches began, and has been continuing ever since.
That was the same year that the cover of the April 8th edition of Time magazine, in bold red letters against a black background, posed the question, “Is God Dead?” For the most part, the church swept that thought under the rug and, after affirming that God was indeed alive, carried on.
But there was a psychic shift. It was, and is, a time of the changing of the gods. And once a seed is planted it will grow. For the last couple of decades an awareness has taken root that fundamental change is happening in all avenues of human endeavour. The nineteen sixties can be considered an adolescent outburst. Now we are settling to seriously consider who we are in relation to the earth and to the spiritual dimension.
One expression of the restless energy within the Christian church is “Progressive Christianity.”
The Centre for Progressive Christianity was founded by Jim Adams in 1994. He was then rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capital Hill in Washington DC. For a time it existed as a virtual Centre on his computer. It has now expanded to many countries and is a movement that is increasing in scope and energy.
Rev. Gretta Vosper, who ministers with West Hill United Church, Toronto, is well known as the founder, head, and chief spokesperson for the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity. She bears eloquent witness to the death of our theistic image of God. Her book, With or Without God: Why the way We Live is More Important than what we Believe, made it to the best-seller list. Her recent book, Amen, What Prayer can Mean in a World Beyond Belief, probes the meaning of prayer when we have no thought of supernatural intervention.
Another Canadian who has much to offer is Rev. Bruce Sanguin, now serving in Canadian Memorial United Church in Vancouver. He names his view Evolutionary Christianity. His most recent book is The Advance of Love: Reading Scripture with an Evolutionary Heart. Science has given us a sacred story that need not compete with the sacred narrative of scripture.
Rev. Nancy Steeves is yet another clergyperson, serving in pastoral ministry in Southminster-Steinhauer United Church in Edmonton, who is providing meaningful liturgy in a progressive mode. “As we continue to explore new meanings of sacredness we no longer come together Sunday morning to worship but to be a community engaged in spiritual wisdom and ritual, reflect and deepen our living as spiritual beings immersed in a human experience.”
Every two years the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity holds a Conference. This year it will be held at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, August 15 – 17. The theme is Christianity: The Story Evolves. The three people mentioned above will be there. Brian and Gretta will be theme speakers and Nancy will lead us in our spiritual gatherings each day.
We have the west, the prairies and central Canada represented in the leadership. The east will do the organizational work as well as provide leadership for workshops and entertainment. Lloyd MacLean, well known in United Church contemporary music circles, will be our Music Director. Emily Kierstead, diaconal minister, composer and workshop leader, will lead us in The Cosmic Walk. Kathryn Anderson, a diaconal minister who has been deeply involved in justice work, and Wilf Bean, an adult educator who has worked with the Cody Institute and Tatamagouche Centre, will lead a workshop on Getting Serious About Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation. The Hon Mayann Francis will lead a workshop on, I (Don Murray) will be leading a workshop on The Death and Resurrection of God: Christianity and the New Story, outlining the contours of the New Story that is emerging. Ardyth and Jennifer, well known harpists, will provide a quiet and meditative musical time.
The Story Evolves. Wherever you are on the journey may you continue apace.
For more information and to register go to www.ccpchalifax2013.eventbrite.ca