Four women were spending a Sunday afternoon in their church living out their faith by filling out paperwork. It’s a sacred act that goes back thousands of years. Not the paperwork part, but the faith part.
FAITH. Now there’s a word that will likely evoke 10 negative reactions for every good one – maybe even worse. That word is in pretty rough shape, particularly when it’s linked with church. So much so that there are days when I wonder if it can ever be rehabilitated.
But there is a major part of me that believes that it MUST be rehabilitated.
Why? Because I think that a big part of the quality of life we enjoy in this country depends on it.
That’s biblical even.
The book of Matthew lays out this story where Jesus is reported to say to people that they must learn to be personally active in addressing society’s ills. To not sit back in apathy or complacency. To not see “government” as something that we have no connection to, but are called to engage in. It finishes with those famous words from Jesus, “Where two or three are gathered, there I will be also”. In modern language it means, “Make everything you do count, especially the so-called little things”.
I am inspired by a conversation I had last year with her excellency the former governor general Adrienne Clarkson. She said that the most important thing a church can do is to cultivate volunteerism. That’s because to her mind and in her words, volunteers are the “backbone of Canada.” We are, according to her, among the world’s societies that produces the most volunteers. Great news! But not quite. She said it’s only 1 in 4 people, or 25%, that volunteer in Canada.
Churches do much better than the national average. In my church and most United Churches that I know, it’s close to 100% of our membership that volunteers in some way – with time and money. Many will volunteer their time at their church and then volunteer somewhere else also. Regardless of where they volunteer, their volunteerism is not about the “navel gazing” that I think many churches are unfairly stereotyped for.
Their volunteerism is about the most human kind if faith.
How much faith does it take to sit in anonymity and fill out the paperwork, knowing you have someone’s life in your hands but not really knowing if it will work? More than once, the women expressed stressful concern that they didn’t want to make any mistake that would stall the process or cause it to fail. Canada, for all its faults, still can remain proud of its legacy of building a tolerant society that respects the power of a diverse world.