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Jun 28, 2011

Churches and Post Office going way of Dodo?

Chris Selley's op-ed piece in today's online National Post celebrates the idea that, now that they are back to work (yay, Julie's 1st Mail-Day in a couple weeks!), Canada Post needs to radically rethink its business model because its old one is "terminally screwed." He says, "Canada Post is vinyl in a digital age." He suggests, in the words of another metaphor, that maybe it should go the way of the dodo.

He considers and dismisses arguments in favour of its survival (the supposed "romance of letter-writing"; letter carriers as de facto "neighbourhood watch").

But he can't quite imagine a mail-less world. Because: "There’s always going to be a post office, always going to be a way to receive a birthday card, wedding invitation, magazine or whatever few things per year you really need to get your hands on."

Let me rewrite that sentence in the context of another institution near and dear to my heart: There's always going to be a church, always going to be somewhere to baptize / christen / dedicate your child, be married, buried, or whatever few spiritual things per year you really need to do.

In  my experience, that is the assumption of many. The church will be there to provide a service when I need it, they think, and until then I can ignore it. So, come Sunday, the seats are mostly empty.

I wonder how sound that assumption is. Here in Hudson Bay, our little town has 10 churches. Two only have services once a month, with a minister who makes an 8-hour round-trip to participate. Rather a far cry from the New Testament church, I think. A third has not had an ordained leader in years. A fourth has a part-time, non-resident pastor.

On my darker days, I fear our little Anglican church is next in line, what with our attendance down more than 30% in the past 5 years.

Mr. Selley says that Canada Post needs a radical new business model. What about the churches, I wonder? Many, including a few local ones, have become dependent on fund-raisers to meet ever-increasing costs. Not sure I'd call that a new business model, although it does tend to turn the churches from their traditional role as providers of charity for others into consumers of charity from others.
  • Are our churches headed the way of vinyl records and the dodo?
  • Do we in the churches need a new business model?
  • Does that necessarily imply a new or different spiritual model?
  • What might that look like?
  • To what extent is a union of two churches of different denominations (e.g. Anglican and Lutheran) into a single congregation a new model vs a variation of the same?
  • Are 10 churches too many for a town of less than 2,000 people?
  • How important are ethnic, cultural, historical, linguistic, or theological differences between congregations? Are any of them non-negotiable in joining together?
These are a few of the questions that came to my mind as I read this op-ed piece, ones that also appear sometimes when I awaken in the middle of the night.
What are your thoughts?
--Steve P

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