We are not just material beings, but spiritual persons with a need for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment that transcends the visible confines of this world. This longing for transcendence is a longing for truth, goodness, and beauty. Truth, goodness, and beauty are called the transcendentals of being, because they are aspects of being. Everything in existence has these transcendentals to some extent. God, of course, as the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty, has these transcendentals to an infinite degree. Oftentimes, he draws us to himself primarily through one of these transcendentals. St. Augustine, who was drawn to beauty in all its creaturely forms, found the ultimate beauty he was seeking in God, his creator, the beauty “ever ancient, ever new.”―Sister Gabriella Yi, O.P.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Withering Heights. The elasticity of the United Church of Canada and its continuing decline.

Pre-rant

The West Coast real estate bloom has been a cause for celebration or consternation depending on the condition of one's pocketbook. Rental properties are rapidly becoming unaffordable, never mind the thought of ever owning even a modest house or condominium.

Renters are staying put. As soon as a longtime renter moves out of our building, the price of their former apartment skyrockets to match market demand. When asked, an informed source replied that the prices had to rise to keep up with the market. Huh? Why? Why do prices need to escalate?! The simple reason is... greed; profit margin. Management companies make more money for themselves and the owners. The possibility of moving to a cheaper rental unit within the same rapidly aging building to save some money in a very tight budget is made impossible by management companies jacking up prices as soon as someone leaves. Shifting between units in buildings has been prohibited by several local management companies. Rent increases for the past five years have been set to the highest allowable limit permitted by law.

The United Church of Canada, faced with continuing losses in revenue, which is to say a continuing loss of people in the pews, is selling or has sold additional buildings in our area. Their properties, like most on the desirable West Coast, are fetching fine prices and making tidy profits for the sellers and realtors. Which is to say, sellers and realtors are contributing to a bubble that is pushing aside economically disadvantaged families and individuals. It should be noted that the planned Fairfield UCC community project includes residential units in the design. No mention has been made in local media, however, indicating whether or not the planned residential units will provide consideration for low-income residents.

Recent sales:
Brentwood Bay United Church
The money from the sale (also not disclosed) will be going to the presbytery, which oversees (UCC) churches throughout Greater Victoria to Duncan. As one commenter noted, the property "could have been (but wasn't) redeveloped as much needed subsidized housing, perfect spot easy to school, stores, drs, etc."
Fairfield United Church
The church went on the market in February at $1.24 million. (Rev. Beth) Walker did not disclose the selling price, but said it topped the asking price. Proceeds will go toward supporting the church in its new (hoped-for) space, she said. (Let's hope that the Fairfield United Church community still believes in prayer. Otherwise, the tentative nature of their "investment" could lead to bitter disappointment.)
Over the past couple of decades the United Church of Canada has sold buildings and compressed congregations as membership declined steeply, levelled off after the initial trauma, then began a slow and steady evaporation that continues to the present.

After the UCC began its foray into societal conformity, many people left in anguish at the direction the UCC was headed. The UCC opted for such people-friendly marketing strategies as relevance, contemporary music, "diversity" friendly theology and other Canadian nice-isms. Which leads one to ask, "How's that working out for ya?"

At the sale of the Brentwood Bay (cf. MOTION 2015 – 82) building, the following perception was recorded in a local newspaper that hints at a possible realization that the willed trajectory of the United Church and its local affiliates has been and is currently the cause for the lack of sustainability.
http://www.peninsulanewsreview.com/news/381699091.html
Minister of Brentwood Bay United Church David Drake said the decision to close (Brentwood UCC) came down to a sustainability issue.
"So I think a lot of the leadership has to change, a lot of the way we look at the world has to change, and so it’s going to be a couple of years of exploration and experimenting and a lot of research," he said.
The Fairfield United Church (building) has been sold to a local developer, but the congregation hopes to remain on site with space in the new proposal. ("The congregation hopes to remain on site... ." That phrase tends to cast doubt on the viability of the community's plan, or at the very least contradicts the apparent confidence of the community's leaders.) 
Declining congregation numbers, maintenance costs and anticipated upgrades prompted the church to put the property, at 1303 Fairfield Rd., up for sale, the church said on its website.
The long-term sustainability of the Fairfield United congregation is challenged by many things, including decreases in congregation membership and substantial costs of property maintenance and anticipated upgrades. However, we are actively seeking ways to continue being the “spirited heart of Fairfield” in a financially sustainable way. ( 1. That "spirited heart" seems to be suffering from clogged arteries of late; 2. the ROCOR parish in Fairfield might object to the UCC claim to being the heart of the community.)
Has the trajectory chosen by the UCC contributed to its lack of sustainability? Has its theological, sociological, political and psychological elasticity rendered it spiritually untenable, unable to meet the legitimate needs of its (former) constituents?

Sustainability is the national buzzword which possibly attempts to conceal a simple truth: faith communities that choose a worldly agenda are dying. Why, then, support an organization that is barely distinguishable from the New Democratic Party of Canada? Why pay double the membership fees, so-to-speak, when one can simply stay home on Sundays, watch the Olympics and/or go jogging and keep a little extra cash in the purse for those much needed yoga pants or the next flashy smartphone?

Is further "exploration and experimenting and a lot of research" going to help reverse the United Church of Canada's decline? It will if the research admits the possibility that relativistic theology is largely to blame for the UCC's drift toward becoming a religious social club. Research means nothing if the data are skewed and the lens through which the data are interpreted is itself tinted by ideological bias. Is the UCC's penchant for "exploration and experimenting", i.e., the tossing aside of Christian orthodoxy, the very disposition which has gotten it into the current predicament?

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