Wednesday, May 2, 2018

"God Doesn’t Care if a Good Idea Comes from Another Denomination"

May 9 Event at Charleswood United Church to bring church leaders together for learning, networking

The challenges facing churches today are well-known—declining attendance, falling membership, decreased giving, to mention a few.

If there’s any comfort for churches that are struggling, it’s knowing their church isn’t alone; many others are also having a hard time keeping the doors open and people engaged.

But not all the news is bad. Some churches are trying and finding new ways to do ministry that are working or showing real promise. Problem is, few others know about them—denominations can be siloed, and there are few ways of sharing information between them. How can church leaders find out about successes in other denominations?

Find ways to share new ideas is the goal of “Behold I do a new thing! Emerging perspectives on ministry,” a one-day conference on May 9 for clergy and others involved in ministry.

The goal of the Ted Talk-style event, which will run from 9 AM to 2:30 PM at Charleswood United Church, is to provide learning opportunities for clergy and religious leaders in Winnipeg, and also help them develop new relationships across denominational lines.

“Everyone is in the same boat,” says Michael Wilson, minister at Charleswood United Church and one of the event’s organizers. 

“The questions that are being asked by people at one church are being asked by others. By coming together, we will find we have a lot to learn from each other, to see what kinds of creative things are happening locally.”

For Wilson, the event is also a personal project that begins with his own interest in theological education.  

As a minister, he knows that continuing education is important and valuable. But there are limited options in Winnipeg; most of the conferences for those who are involved in ministry are costly and far away in the U.S. and other parts of Canada—many people in Winnipeg can’t afford to attend them.

“We live in a place that is kind of remote” from those opportunities to learn more about creative ways of doing church, he says. “It is harder to find resources.”

Seeing a gap, he approached leaders from other church groups, along with the University of Winnipeg Centre for Theological Studies and Canadian Mennonite University, to ask if they wanted to come together to sponsor some educational events.

“Once people got together to talk about it, the idea caught fire,” Wilson says.

The event, which will feature local theologians and leaders from Anglican, Catholic, Mennonite, United Church and Lutheran churches, will be a time for attenders to "get out of their silos and learn from each other," Wilson says.

"I'm sure God doesn't care if a good idea comes from another denomination."

Finding ways to work together locally across church lines is also important since “denominationalism as we have known it for a long time is not a model that is working anymore,” he says.

The “locus of ministry shifting from the denomination to the congregation,” he adds, noting that more than ever the question is “what does a local community feel the spirit is calling them to do?”

At the same time, churches are also facing challenges about diversity—gender, racial, linguistic, and sexual, along with needing to find ways to promote reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians.

“These are the growing edges, and we want to get together with others to see what they are doing about them, and what we can learn from each other.”

In addition to the event on May 9, the organizing group is planning other educational events for Winnipeg in the future.

On October 2-3, they are bringing in Anna Carter Florence, professor of preaching at Columbia Theological Seminary and author of Rehearsing Scripture: Discovering God’s Word in Community.And on May 7-8, 2019, well-known speaker and author Diana Butler Bass will be here.

Cost of “Behold: I do a new thing!” is $40 and includes lunch. Registration information is available on the Charleswood United Church website at or by calling (204) 832-3667.

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