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Going against the grain

Do we expect them to walk in the door?


In my experience, much of our literature about church growth assumes that people will come into the church for a variety of reasons: seeking comfort, community, spiritual guidance, and so forth, and in a variety of ways: baptisms, funerals, weddings, etc. There is an assumption that our communities will reflect their surrounding communities enough that people will consider them a natural place to “drift into” if they seek spiritual food.

As Anglicans in Quebec, however, we cannot expect francophones to come join us for any of the above “happenstance” reasons. Because of the questions of personal and collective identity, they will come to us only through a deliberate choice. For questions of happenstance, they will turn up in their local RC congregation. If they come to us, it is because of language or because of what we stand for – a specific decision to go against what they “should” do or be.

This is both strength and weakness.

One possible solution would be to shift our identity from “the church for the English” to “the church for outsiders”. In doing so, we could embrace the reality that we are noticeably outside the mainstream identity of Quebeckers and position ourselves as a place to belong for those who don’t belong.

Community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist. […] It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them into strengths. — A. Lorde

What do you think? Come on over to the forums to pick apart my idea…

(Image by Luke Peterson Photography)

Maïda Vandendorpe

About Maïda Vandendorpe

Maïda Vandendorpe is a priest The Parish of Vaudreuil in the Diocese of Montreal. Having lived as a francophone in English Canada and as an anglophone in French Canada she considers herself authentically Canadian.
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0 Responses to Going against the grain

  1. My experience with francophones coming to my parish is twofold:

    1.  Mixed families coming for “happenstance” — sometimes only after checking out their RC parish, and finding that the baptism or wedding will take place completement en français, to the exclusion of the anglophone relatives.  They are pleased that we are accommodating and can be bilingual and inclusive.

    2.  Those who are actively seeking an alternative to the RC church, because of its teachings on the role of women, sexuality, divorce, etc.  These are the people actively searching us out, not just for baptisms and weddings, but seeking a spiritual home.

    With the first group, I always make a point of talking about the Anglican Church, how we are similar to and different from the RC church, and what we stand for.  I haven`t had any of these people become regular attendees, but I hope I have at least planted a seed.

    My sense is that, with the second group, we have not done enough marketing to let these people know that we are a viable alternative (those who do come are bilingual and have heard about us in English).

  2. I specifically belong to the second group. I have been actively beating the drums for the Anglican Church as the reasonable alternative to the RC Church from the minute I stepped out of an Anglican service.

    My angle, which I’ve talked about here, is that we should emphasize both the differences in social teachings and the liturgical similarities between the two Churches. That is the key to the French speakers’ hearts: words they know in the service of causes they espouse.

    French will have to be spoken more and more in the Québec Anglican Church for it not to die off.

    Personal note, Maïda: I’m being received in the ACC on the 25th of November at Christ Church Cathedral. 🙂

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