I’m a Christian, a husband, a dad, a white middle class Canadian. I’ve been a pastor in the United Church of Canada for the last 25 years. I have done the church thing — what most people think of when they think of a minister: leading worship, performing weddings, visiting the sick, burying the dead. And it has been good. I have been Blessed. I’ve never gotten over the sense of privilege of being invited to share in people’s spiritual journeys.
But some things cause me growing dis-ease:
- I saw spiritual seekers coming to church but not connecting in any way with the church culture they found there.
- I saw people coming to church because of tragedy or trauma in their life, and not finding a place to find rest, healing or transformation.
- I saw people coming knowing that they needed a deeper purpose in their life than what our consumer culture provides — wanting dialogue, exploration and spiritual depth and often finding institutional maintenance and struggles over this or that belief system.
- I saw people coming who craved community — to know and be known — a place for their spirit to find a home but not finding either.
- I saw people with general dis-ease about where we are going as a society and species and wanting a new spiritual foundation to see them and their children through the challenges that lie ahead and not finding a living tradition from the past that would help light their way into the future.
Some found a place in the church I served (thank God!) I take nothing away from the way the Spirit uses many avenues to touch people’s hearts. But many did not. And many, in my experience, have given up on the hope that you would ever find that in the church.
All this led to a kind of spiritual crisis for me. How do you do church in a new way? How do we reach out to those who are seeking and hungry and thirsty for a better life and a better world? More and more this dis-ease within me would not let me rest — or sleep through some nights. There was no little tossing and turning and praying as I lay there.
And then, one night in October 2008, I had a dream, a vision, a call. The vision was of a church that was a café in the south end of Guelph, Ontario – the city where I currently live. Out of the blue. Never had such an idea passed through my mind before — (although in my life I have had a number of experiences of God that I would call mystical experiences).
I shared the vision with some close friends and colleagues — and they got excited. I shared it with folks in Waterloo Presbytery (that regional body of the United Church of Canada in this area) and they were supportive.
But I’m no businessman. If God wants a physical place — a Café Church — God will have to provide the folks with business skills and cash.
But there are already cafés to meet in, pubs in which to gather, places for conversation. The symbol of a café speaks to me about — accessibility, conversation, connection, communion.
So that’s my journey now. That’s what this blog hopes to chronicle and engage. I hope you will join me on the journey — I’m looking for companions (literally those who will share bread with me — or coffee.)