Easter greetings to you! We hope that this note finds you well.
As a Church, we recently moved from Lent into Easter; we have just come through a time of reflection and prayer on death and resurrection, endings and new beginnings. The current context of The United Church of Canada is also one where we are considering how some aspects of our church’s life will soon come to a difficult end, and where we will prayerfully reflect on the Spirit’s work in creating new life for our church’s ministry. It is in this spirit that we offer to you this update letter about the church in this time.
Like many mainline churches in North America, we in The United Church of Canada are in the midst of challenging times: changing forms of church, changing contexts for ministry, changing human and financial resources, and changing generations of members and leaders. We are being challenged to live out God’s mission in different ways than in the past. The United Church’s 41st General Council—which met in Ottawa in August 2012—directed that a Comprehensive Review Task Group be established to examine the vision and circumstances of the church and recommend alternate models of program, governance, and staff structures that will enable the church to sustain its faithful leadership in God’s world, and report to the 42nd General Council in 2015. That task group began its work in November 2012, and is in the midst of broad consultation across the United Church and with partners with whom we work together in God’s mission and ministry.
Even as this consultation about future vision and structure gets underway, we have an immediate need to confront the reality of sharply reduced financial resources available for our national budget in 2014.
The 41st General Council, and the Executive of General Council at its meeting in October 2012, heard that the church must reduce its dependence on reserves to fund operations in 2014. At the same time, costs are rising and we seem to be facing a continued downward trend in financial givings. Very soon, May 4 – 6, 2012, our Executive of General Council will meet to take significant decisions to achieve the reductions needed for the 2014 national budget. At this point, it appears that overall reductions may be in the range of 15 – 25% and will affect all areas of the national church life and work: program, grants and staffing. We do not yet know what the impact will be on the United Church’s overall program, but find it difficult and even painful to contemplate. Once our Executive makes its decisions in early May, we will begin the process of communication and implementation. We know this news, and the implementation of cuts, will affect our collective ministries in different ways.
Further background information is available online in a letter from the General Secretary: http://www.united-church.ca/communications/news/generalsecretary/130220.
As a church, we seek to use our resources in ways that model faithfulness, justice, and good stewardship. We ask for your continued prayers and faithful courage as we move through this journey toward a place unknown. We do know that God is with us, and sustains our faith, our hope and our love.
Grace and peace be with you,
The Rev. Michael Blair
Church in Mission / L’Eglise en Mission
The United Church of Canada / l’Eglise Unie du Canada