The national spokesperson for the United Church of Canada paid a visit to Castlegar last Saturday and members from the United Church congregations of Nelson, Trail, Rossland, Beaver Valley, Salmo, Greenwood, Grand Forks and Christina Lake gathered at the United Church to meet him.
Gary Patterson is serving a three-year term as moderator and appears to be very well-suited to the task.
Patterson spoke with the Castlegar News prior to his presentation which got underway at 12:30 p.m.
Patterson, a Vancouver resident, is based in Toronto and was in the midst of a tour in which he’s touching base with congregants from far and wide.
“A year and a half ago I was elected as moderator of the United Church,” he informed, “which means I’m the spiritual leader for our denomination across the country.
That means I do a lot of traveling. The moderator’s job description is very fluid, the primary task is to ‘quicken the heart of the church,’ you can define that in 101 different ways, one of the ways is to make certain you visit the various regions across the country.”
The question was asked, What would Mr. Patterson say was the major issue facing traditional church denominations these days, given the well-documented general decline in church attendance.
“The major issue would be connected to the decline in terms of numbers. The last census indicated that 29 per cent of people said ‘I’m spiritual but not religious,’ which means the church and institutional life is no longer answering their questions and their needs, and that would be true right across the board – we’re worried about the decline in people participating in elections… service clubs… or volunteers. So the challenge, is to say, ‘how do we say the same message of hope and commitment to mending the world, but say it in a way that connects with a new generation? What I’m hearing is that they have the same questions… ‘Where do we come from? What’s my life all about?’
Information was touched upon during the Right Reverend’s presentation, including the fact that “in the 1950’s and 60’s, the United Church of Canada held a significant position in the Canadian public landscape consulting with Federal Government leaders and making frequent newspaper headlines.”
A report from Castlegar United outlined:
“As a church, we were reminded that, we need to see a holy vision that embraces all relations, rich and poor, sick and lonely and with our earth.
Times are challenging within our churches as numbers decline, people age and our buildings require more maintenance. We must accept that society is changing and more people are feeling dubious about churches. Social media has created loneliness and isolation and it is noticeable that people tend to look for company by sitting in a cafe along side other people focused on their technical devices!”
There was time for a “town hall” style meeting with people asking pertinent questions and Gary responding.
Reverend Patterson had spoken in Nakusp the day before his Castlegar visit, and was then on the way to Creston and Cranbrook before heading to Calgary and on to Toronto.