naramata centre - a chapter in our history comes to a close

It is a time of transition in the church. Yesterday we received the sad though not unexpected news that the board of Naramata Centre of The United Church of Canada has announced that the centre will cease operations and close immediately. Naramata Centre (originally the Christian Leadership Training School) was founded in 1947 by my uncle Bob McLaren along with my aunt Alleen Searcy and a group of lay and clergy dreamers who envisioned a place of Christian formation. That vision had a big impact on my father George, Alleen's younger brother, who experienced a call to ministry through his experiences in the early years at Naramata. It is not too difficult to trace the direct line between Naramata Centre and my call to ministry. I find myself giving thanks for that history even as this chapter comes to a close.

It has been evident for quite some time that we can no longer sustain the kind of congregational and institutional life that was possible fifty, even twenty, years ago. It is the reason that I am so fascinated to see what form the church will take in the years to come. That there will be a church - a vital and interesting church - I have no doubt. I also hunch that our experience at University Hill Congregation over the past few decades will inform the shape of the church that is emerging from this time of endings. What form of Christian communal (ie: congregational) life is sustainable in a post-Christian, secular, consumer culture? As it happens, a journalism student in the graduate program at UBC has asked for an interview with me in order to assist with an assignment, namely - why is the United Church of Canada losing members and closing churches. He is coming to my office early this afternoon. I have a few ideas about that but will be glad for any thoughts you may have about this fascinating, open question.

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