Churches ought to ‘audaciously step onto the beaches and streets of life’
January 14, 2023
Last year the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago (PCTT) had one of the youngest delegations to the World Council of Churches assembly. The PCTT also afforded me the opportunity to attend the 225th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), making both assemblies an attempt at returning to fellowship in person.
Yet when I heard the moderator of our church, the Rt. Rev. Joy Abdul-Mohan, in her closing message for the WCC Assembly speak of the need to audaciously love as Christ loves, I sensed a cry to see something different. Both assemblies had something in common, and that is a need for missing working-class adults to find room in the assemblies of the church. It is therefore time to reconcile how the church operates in relation to all ages within our membership.
Visiting the PC(USA)’s General Assembly, I recognized that my generation was somewhat missing. When our delegation represented at the WCC Assembly, the same thing was noticed. For while there was room for youth bodies, most of the church leadership was in fact not representative of all generations.
This truth is also seen in the local church sphere, for most of the church management are not necessarily the young adults and middle adult parishioners. I remember asking some members I met at the PC(USA) Assembly how the pre-Covid Assembly operated. One participant told me this was the first Assembly attended, because previously it would mean that he would have to take excessive days off work to conduct church affairs.
The issues discussed in a lot of our assemblies are about enacting the audacious love of Christ in the world. I was pleased to see the PC(USA) continue its walk to racial and gender justice reconciliation. I was pleased to see the WCC affirm once again the need to actualize and walk with those affected by climate change. My pleasure, though, dissipates, because when we walk into the world, out of these assemblies and out of our churches, we seem to not see the regular people of life who are all around us. They are affected by racial injustice and they are feeling the effects of climate change, but they also feel the absence of the churches’ presence in their lives.
This is a tough topic, for the church wants its pews filled. But maybe the church needs to leave the pews and, like Jesus, audaciously step onto the beaches and streets of life. Just like Jesus, let us seek out the working-class fishers, let us find the tax-collectors and the peddlers of cloth by removing our vestments and coming to them. Yes, I hear that the church cries for sacrifice of time. But let us see this as the church now needing to sacrifice its own methods and procedures, and so I offer a few thoughts and suggestions.
The call to audacious love is active. Therefore, let us transform how we do church to develop our membership. Maybe we can target social media platforms in short bursts of inspirational words; maybe we can develop our meeting into a working meeting, where continuous review and decisions can be done remotely and by the use of technology; or maybe we can go back to old tradition practiced in the PCTT context — cottage prayer meetings, where the church goes to communities and everyone brings a dish and during the late evenings we pray, sing, dance and eat right in the communities or cottages of life.
Let us not be afraid to be inventive and let us not be afraid to see and let go of some of the traditions we have that are not biblically sound. The aim of our faith is audacious love. As such, let us be courageous, fearless and bold in our steps to a new age of church for all ages.
The Rev. Keron Khellawan for Mission Crossroads
Today’s Focus: Presbyterian pastor from Trinidad and Tobago
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Andrea O’Connor, Administrative Assistant, Director’s Office, Racial Equity & Women’s Ministry, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Emily Odom, Associate Director Mission Communications, Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Let us pray
Gracious God, we thank you for the faithfulness of your servants who seek opportunities to serve one another with love and with action. We ask you to bless their efforts and multiply their service. Amen.