In preparing the Office of Transitional Ministry form for the Diocesan database, two of the questions and answers in particular stood out, as they help to define who St. Paul’s strives to be and serve in the Canton community. We share them with you here.
How are we preparing ourselves for the Church of the future?
As society becomes more secular, and often appears to veer away from the second of Jesus’ Great Commandments – love your neighbor as yourself – divisions over issues of gender, ethnicity, race, religion, and sexual orientation have taken root. The question of how to embrace and share Christ’s love and teachings in this scenario becomes critical for the church of the future.
Here at St. Paul’s, the church of the future begins with inclusion. This can be seen in our radical welcome to all, regardless of “labels”. Sunday worship services are intentional about achieving a balance of men and women participating at the altar. During the week, we open our space to those seeking help for addiction, to those in need of a hot meal, and we have offered our space for fundraising dinners in support of those suffering from AIDS.
At St. Paul’s, we believe the church of the future calls us to be part of the downtown community – rather than fleeing to the suburbs -- where we can be engaged with opportunities to do ministry as the community need dictates. We will always have poor among us; we will always have hunger; we will always have homelessness. Our church of the future seeks to address these and other needs through continued outreach and by developing community partnerships with other organizations and faiths.
An openness toward enriching worship and music offerings, and technology as well, must be embraced as they each play a role in the church of the future. We recognize that “getting the message out” requires a different approach and we must be open to utilizing new technologies.
Since St. Paul’s had its beginnings 150 years ago, the world has changed; downtown Canton has changed, and St. Paul’s has changed. We will continue to change as we seek to be a place of radical welcome and inclusion that is grounded in faith and called by God’s love to minister to the world in the church of the future.
Describe a moment in your worshiping community’s recent ministry which you recognized as one of success and fulfillment.
In late 2018, St Paul’s began meeting with clergy from several historically African American congregations, as well as Stark County NAACP and Stark Fresh, to plan for a service to honor the life and work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. From the meetings and further discussion, the desire to work together to make serious efforts to bridge the racial gap in the Canton area grew stronger. Out of this desire to bring people together, “Courageous Conversations on Race Relations” was born. We have been coming together regularly with the congregations and with community groups, including Stark County NAACP and Stark Fresh, for dinner and discussion of difficult issues, in a spirit of faith, openness, respect and brotherhood. Together, we are working to build bridges between communities and to try to heal some of the divisions that exist at the present time. Friendships have grown between people who otherwise might never have shared dinner and conversation. Congregations and individuals have drawn close to one another and remarkable strides are being made. We are learning from our shared past and endeavoring to build a better future together. We are working to include more congregations and to expand this valuable dialogue. Discussions have ranged over a variety of issues related to race relations and are continuing with Implicit Bias, White Privilege, The Everyday Impact of Racism Today, Redlining and the Food Desert Connection, as well as other significant issues. We are working together to share God’s love and to help build the “beloved community” in this place.