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Deep Spirituality Draws Closer to God

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Our calling and vision identify “deep spirituality” as the foundation of our identity, not only as a church but as individuals.

The United Church of Canada’s New Vision and Purpose Statement is a key component of the Church’s strategic plan designed to shape its direction and ministry for the next three years. The vision reads:

Called by God to be disciples of Jesus, the United Church of Canada is a bold, connected and evolving community of diverse, courageous and hopeful, united in deep spirituality, inspiring worship and bold justice. Aiming for church.

The United Church’s new vision and purpose statement contains three key phrases:

  • deep spirituality
  • bold discipleship
  • bold justice

In this series of blog posts, we explore each line and the insights they provide to our personal experiences of faith and witnesses as a church of Christ. If you have a sermon, reflection, or idea to share to enliven the call and vision statement of the Unification Church, please let us know.)

Call and Vision: Deep Spirituality

Bill’s reply shocked me. We were completing exercises in our review class. The program included monthly sessions with 9th grade youth and their mentors. Each young person paired up with an adult in the congregation. They attended monthly sessions together, following a more in-depth outline of the class subject matter, and his second meeting, just the two of them. This session was about prayer.

All class activities were conducted by both young people and mentors. Early in the lesson, I encouraged them to line up. At one end of the line were those who had never prayed outside of worship, and at the other end were those who prayed every day. Looking back 20 years ago, my experience was that even young people were often half-hearted. Many of them were taught the bedtime prayers of childhood, which they still recite from time to time. What I wasn’t prepared for was being one of the adults who never landed, but that’s what Bill did.

Bill is a retired educator, and I hired him as a mentor because his parents were good at pulling out young people who were there by force. I often paired him with young people I thought would be the least involved. Bill connected with them and they attended and participated. Bill was a trustee and a member of the Church Council. He had words of wisdom and insight in each of these settings. Most Sundays he attended services. Bill also had a grandson who needed a heart transplant before his first birthday. But here he was sharing that he never prayed.

To be fair to Bill, I think he was typical, not typical of men of his generation. I was hosting a men’s lunch where men would eat together and discuss a topic. But it ended long ago. Unless they joined a study group, there was no opportunity for men to come together to pray beyond worship compared to the opportunities UCW brings to women for spiritual growth. As the shock passed, despondency took its place. How did the church fail because Bill was not given access to God?

That is spirituality and getting closer to God. In worship, we do it collectively, as a congregation. But what tools do you personally need to do that? Prayer is certainly one. Prayer opens our lives to God. It can be words, music, or many other forms. For some people, it is inherently lonely. For others, it’s about quieting and calming yourself with tools like meditation and mandalas. For me, it’s writing a diary.

For Bill it was a worship service and the experience made him a dedicated person to serve his church. If he had other tools like these forms of prayer and study groups to deepen his intimacy with God, how personal would the experience have been to him?

Our new mission statement is that this intimate experience with God is the starting point for each of us. It is grounded in worship and prayer, study and scripture. Deep spirituality is the joy of those who know that they are loved and embraced by God and long to encounter His embrace. Deep spirituality is the cornerstone of our identity, not only as a church but also as individuals.

— Cheryl-Ann Stadelbauer-Sampa is Executive Minister of the United Church of Canada’s Antler River Basin, Western Ontario Waterway, and Horseshoe Falls Regional Council.

This blog post was originally published as a reflection forming part of the United Church Call and Vision worship resources.

The views contained in these blogs are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Church of Canada.