July/August cover image: Pastor Chad Moir in a seated in a Saskatoon coffeeshop.

Vol 23 No 5 July/August 2008

Columns

National Bishops's Turn

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Finding the Faithful

At a time when wooing people into the pews is getting harder than ever, one synod is thinking outside the box.

Take it from me, church can be a scary place. As someone who didn't attend church growing up and came to mainstream, organized religion in my 20s, I understand the trepidation some people feel walking through those heavy front doors to worship for the first time. There are, after all, rules. Rules about what to do, where to go, and what to say—and participation is encouraged. While no one is grading us on our responses, the whole experience can be a bit nerve-racking for the uninitiated, like stepping into a foreign land with virtually no understanding of the language and culture.

Now firmly entrenched in my faith community, I understand and appreciate the history, meaning, and tradition of what we do inside those four walls. Although my relationship with God was strong from the get-go, being part of a larger community coming together to share and carry out God's vision has helped me grow and change in ways I couldn't have done on my own. Church works for me, but worshipping in a sanctuary and being part of a traditional congregation is not for everyone.

The Saskatchewan Synod has seen the light on this subject and launched a ministry aimed at capturing a younger demographic, one that's increasingly hesitant to set foot inside our doors. Headed by Pastor Chad Moir, Saskatoon's emerging church ministry offers a comfortable environment for the disenfranchised, the disillusioned, and the just plain curious to gather, explore their faith, and serve. (See our cover story on page 10.)

Most in their 20s, members of this unique faith community include university students, financially successful young professionals, and those who are just getting by. Many, Pastor Moir says, have had little exposure to the church beyond what they see in the media. They are, nonetheless, an informal congregation, meeting a few times a week for prayer, conversation, or to listen to a speaker or volunteer their time. And as their relationships grow, members converse, text, and hang out together almost daily. Together, they struggle with the same questions of faith that we do, which begs the question: why, exactly, don't they want to join our ranks in the pews?

"What they understand of traditional expressions of Christianity doesn't mesh with their life and world," Pastor Moir explains. "They may 'get' Jesus, but don't see it lived out in churches. They see the institutional church as irrelevant to their journey and fill that communal need with friends who are on the same playing field, as people with authentic questions, not rules and propositional faith claims, as they understand the church to represent."

But in the end, says Pastor Moir, the unchurched and dechurched that make up his congregation are, like us, seeking to grow in their relationships with God and with one another, and to serve the world. And this unconventional ministry, firmly rooted in conventional Lutheran theology, is doing exactly what Saskatchewan Synod hoped it would: encourage and inspire a younger generation to build the kingdom of heaven on earth.


Lucia Carruthers, Editor