Saturday, December 04, 2010

Tongue Tied

I have really enjoyed working with seven adults in our recent Exploring Our Faith class. The group was made up of two young couples, a father of young uns, and two others. Interesting, intelligent people who want to join the church. What's not to like!

Last evening was our final session and it included discussion of the United Church and its ethos. I listed as strengths a bunch of things, including a remarkable list of "firsts," along with a strong social conscience. In the shorter list of weaknesses I included a traditional reluctance to speak to others about our faith. I have noticed that UCC members like to say that they bear witness through their actions rather than their words. I think this is a bit of a cop-out. It brings to mind my wife Ruth's days as a marriage counsellor. The wife (usually) would lament that the husband would never say "I love you." Hubby would gruffly respond "I cut the grass, and make sure the oil is changed in her car -- she should know I love her." Expressing love for a partner is not either/or any more than expressing love for God is either/or.

A member told me recently that rather to his surprise he spent some of his time at the Royal Winter Fair this year "personing" the booth for Christian Farmers. He's a great guy and seems reasonably sane (hey, he reads this blog so he must be!)For the first time in his life he openly witnessed to his Christian faith and even prayed with some of the people who came to the booth. He said that it was a little nerve-wracking as a rookie, but he didn't regret doing so.

Are you open about sharing your faith or are you tongue-tied? It seems to me that one reason the United Church is shrinking and aging is that we aren't all that adept or willing to share the Good News of Christ. Yes, yes, there are all the stereotypesof the pushy Christian , but do you "bear witness to the faith within you?"


IanD said...

It's funny watching people's faces when you tell them you're Christian.

Some people actually flinch; like they're expecting to get hit by a flying Bible.

Laura said...

I do find it hard to verbally bear witness.
More often as I have grown older though, I find I have to say something...more in defence to the bigger world, than in offence, though...I keep working at my offence..I think our faith is as important to pass on in words, as in action.
( I used to think those that came, from other faiths to my door, were lucky because they seemed well trained, and so sure of themselves in exactly what to say. I didn't feel it was something I could do for my church yet I have realized that the work of our faith, the doubt, the learning, the questioning, the living and the rewards are a means of figuring out that maybe someday...?)
I was grateful for Exploring Your Faith years ago, when my husband attended with me. I had grown up in the United Church. His family had membership but didn't attend. Those evening sessions (our date night, back then) in our Calgary church opened the door to his comfort in attending with our young children and I.

sjd said...

It's mostly in our heads. The way people are going to react. We project feelings on other people without actually saying anything. We've created our own scenario of how they will react.
I've started being more open about my faith, and I have been pleasantly surprised with the responses.

Susan said...

For me, it has always been easier to talk about being a person of faith than to talk about the United Church. In the midst of the mid-late 1980's, I was working in a conservative Christian bookstore while the United Church was grappling with the homosexual issue and I was berated and accused of being and attending a non-Christian and heathen church by customers when they found out that I attended an United Church. It got to the point that when I was asked what church I attended, I responded with: I attend a little church out in the country.
Then I was called to Christian Education and Children's ministry within the United Church and I am not quite so gunshy but there is still that initial hesitation when I speak about being a member of the United Church.

Deborah Laforet said...

I think sharing one's faith with another holds a certain vulnerability, just as is saying "I love you" to someone you care about deeply. Sharing our faith with people we don't know is not easy.

I am one who is shy and it takes me time to open up to people, but as soon as someone asks me what I do for a living, I am putting my faith right out there for everyone to see. Sometimes, this can be frustrating because then I'm treated differently, but then again, at times I find myself in the most amazing conversations about faith, spirituality, and religion. I have found that by speaking with others about my faith, I can better articulate what it is I believe.