I'm a laywoman in Canada...
I'm a laywoman in Canada...
I am neither a minister nor a theologian. But as a laywoman in the Anglican Church of Canada, I have been conducting a survey to see how Canadian church members respond to the assemble theme, "God, in your grace, transform the world"
Many questioned in my survey are keenly aware of the discrepancy between the rich and poor, both in Canada and in terms of our country's relations to the third world. They saw the theme as a way toward more awareness. One respondent said, "As Canadians we need to learn to live with less, to share more. We need to be informed about our world and involved in it. We need to listen to the other' with respect and open minds because God is a God of surprises, and sometimes transformation begins where we least expect it."
The connection with social justice issues and the assembly theme was more focused than one might expect. There were specific comments of unease regarding anti-ballistic defense systems and climate change but generally people's concerns grouped around general topics of violence, ecological concerns, economic disparity, indigenous people and refugees. "The sheer scale of damage and injury that has happened and can happen in the future is overwhelming for everyone..."
I find it interesting that many were not prepared to leave the theme at simply supporting social justice causes. There was a pressing desire to discern the processes by which that could happen. "This theme calls us to something deeper than dedicating ourselves to worthy causes. God's grace goes before us after all, so we might try to seek God's grace in positive alternatives rather than in adversarial engagement."
Organized prayer was seen as a way to promote the theme in churches. One suggestion was to start a prayer chain that would extend around the world, perhaps beginning in a rural area somewhere remote and then gradually widening until every continent was involved. This could happen over a 24-hour period on one special day, with new sections involved in prayer each hour as the prayer "followed the sun". This could also be done with a chain of bell-ringing in church towers around the world.
Another thought was to suggest to churches that they use the theme, "God, in your grace, transform the world" as the repeated response during intercessory prayers. A further option for a prayer emphasis was to encourage young people to hold all-night vigils, with different groups taking responsibility for an hour of prayer throughout the night. "If grace allows people to care more and act aggressively to correct the terrible conditions that seem to be everywhere, then a prayer for transformation, if offered collectively, could have far-reaching effects."
I have sensed that if churches approach the theme with imagination and creativity, if the life and ways of that young Teacher from the Galilee are foremost in the planning, the theme could speak profoundly to the ordinary churchgoer, young adults, justice-minded advocates and people on varying journeys of the spirit.
A.J. Finlay, Anglican Church of Canada