Laying out the welcome mat soon at a new church building

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By Rev. Tom Dunbar

Main Street United Church



I’m guessing that you’ve probably noticed. The Main Street United Church new build is well underway. In fact it won’t be long before we’ll be throwing open the doors and inviting everyone in. It is certainly an exciting time for a great many people.

It has been a long road to get here although it seems like only yesterday that the sad news came that Main Street United Church would have to leave the place it has called its faith home since 1888. The structural engineer who advised the congregation did not make the recommendation lightly nor did the congregation take it lightly. A decision had to be made; commit to a $2 to $3 million renovation or spend closer to $1 million on a brand new, much more cost-efficient building designed for the community today. It was a hard decision but in the end the congregation chose to consider the future needs of those to come rather than hanging on to a past that looked very different. There is no question, the previous building was magnificent but a church building is more than just brick and stone.

No matter how new, how old, how magnificent or how humble the church building may be, it is what goes on inside and around the community that matters. In other words, people make the church, not the building. The long history of Main Street United Church making a difference in the lives of people in Mitchell following the way of Jesus is a testament to that.

The big question now is what will the future hold? It’s common knowledge that all church is changing. No longer is there a pressure in the greater society to be an active part of a church or to simply even attend on Sunday morning. Between scandal and skepticism the last 20 years has seen overall church attendance decline first in the mainstream denominations and now in the evangelical branches. 

The rise and now fall of American Evangelicalism (notice I’m avoiding the term Christian in this case) and the very public association with a particular brand of politics that does not mesh with the ways of Jesus has painted all people of faith with the same brush to many in this world. It is an absolute shame because a great number of followers of Jesus, no matter what their denomination or affiliation, work very hard to live a life of love, compassion, understanding and tolerance as Jesus did. A way that is the polar opposite of much of American Evangelicalism that dominates the news;  gun culture, greed, intolerance, bigotry, oppression, denying help to those in need, anti-immigration and even islamophobia are not paths Jesus taught his followers to take. 

Jesus made a point of teaching his disciples to help those who were victims of intolerance, oppression and poverty and so showed us how to love and give life in this world. This is what the future of the church should look like. This is what many churches work hard every day to achieve in ways both big and small. This is very much the path of Main Street United Church here in Mitchell follows. Some have described that as being a door mat but the way of Jesus is not that of a door mat but to lay out a welcome mat because in a true house of God, the doors are thrown open and all are welcome.