We have begun a reading group at the office. It involves a small group of us, who work in different parts of the synod [property, community services agencies, mission, the bookshop], eating lunch together once a week and working our way through a book. it’s the first step on the way to becoming a community of practice. Over the last month or so we’ve been having conversations about ‘The Trance of Scarcity‘. I’m not sold on the book, but it’s been an excellent starting point for conversations that help us rethink the language and story that we use about ourselves in the church.
the book talks about working out of a framework of abundance, rather than scarcity. instead of looking at the world – at money, friends, confidence, attention, love, time – as being limited resources that we have to fight for, we assume that there is enough for all. Funny how much difference that makes.
over the last few weeks, since the results of the last census came through, i’ve been asked to comment a few time about how the uniting church’s membership figures were down. as i said to one journalist, it’s sad – i think the uniting church has something rich, wonderful and unique to offer the world – but i don’t think it’s a relevant measuring stick. the church isn’t on about popularity. we’re on about living faithfully to a vision of a kingdom, and that’s never going to be a popular message. [i do also need to add the disclaimer that i’m not sure if i ticked the uniting church box…!]. but the fear that numbers are dropping [particularly when accompanied by comparisons with other denominations – and, i sense, disappointment if they’re not doing as badly] is coming from an outlook that’s about scarcity.
truth is, we have, literally, thousands more people in the uniting church than we need in order to be a church. we have more than enough people for the church to be faithful to the vision of God. we have more than enough money and resources to help bring about the kingdom of God – even if all those rich congregations keep their reserves to themselves. we still have enough – right here, right now – to be who we need to be.
imagine if we began our next round of budgeting with that as a primary assumption, instead of the assumption that says there’s a limited amount of money that we’re all going to have to fight for…