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)