Monday, January 08, 2018

Christian Ministry in a Different Day

Yesterday we drove to Trenton to attend worship. It certainly wasn't on a whim. Our son Isaac was the presider, his first Sunday in his new congregation. He did exceptionally well, leading with humour and thoughtfulness and offering a Christian message of encouragement. Trenton United is an aging congregation, which is almost a given in the United Church of Canada in the 21st century. There were a handful of children present, including his two boys. It was impressive that as many people came on a very cold and blustery morning in January. And there was genuine warmth from the folk who were there.

Isaac spent the past five years as a minister of children, youth and families in an active congregation in London, Ontario. That sort of role is as rare as the proverbial hens teeth in the UCC, and he had success in creating programs which attracted families and their children. An important aspect of his ministry was going out to the broader community to engage youth, along with college and university students. This less conventional approach to "church" also went well. Eventually Isaac decided to return to pastoral ministry and accepted a call to Trenton.

Yesterday was an interesting experience for me, beyond having to sit on a hard wooden pew after decades of getting a cushy seat at the front. I had total confidence in Isaac before I walked through the door, and I was quickly aware of the positive response from the congregation. I did think about the challenging task he faces in this transitional time for the United Church. He is the fourth generation of Mundys in ministry, as well as being the grandson of a Presbyterian moderator. Yet he faces challenges none of his forebears did. Until my last congregation before retirement I pastored congregations with active youth programs from Sunday school to youth groups to junior choirs. Isaac and his siblings grew up in a congregation where there were three children's choirs and all three made lasting friendships with kids whom they met at church.

My generation of clergy is passing, and many of us have chosen to retire before reaching the age of 65. This coming weekend we'll attend a retirement gathering for a classmate ordained in my year of 1980. Retiring after nearly four decades in ministry is hardly a surprise but I would say that many of grew weary of the decline of human and financial capital in congregations, even though for the most part we were still ministering with lovely people, committed Christians who happen to be elderly.

I have not regretted my decision to retire for a moment. I look forward to new possibilities for myself,  and we will worship under Ike's leadership in the days before us. I do pray that he is given the grace, the strength, and the creativity for effective Christian ministry in a very different day.

No comments: