We have two “Christian Book Stores” in Victoria. Or at least two that I am aware of. One is a small storefront downtown and largely serves the Catholic population and, to some extent, the Anglicans. The other is a large store out near the biggest mall in town and is one of those all-encompassing book, music, card, magazine, random Christian paraphernalia stores. One is used by just the Catholics and some Anglicans, the other is visited by nearly every other Christian in town.
Today, I was at the latter. In preparation for the previously mentioned very exciting upcoming conference, I’d ordered in a book that I’d like to do a study on at church. My reasoning is that it is a good idea for the congregation to have some exposure to an author/speaker before he does a conference we expect them to attend. I ended up (luck of the draw? or divine intervention?) being helped at the cash by the owner of the store. As he was ringing up my purchase I mentioned that Brian McLaren was coming to Victoria and would he be willing to put up a poster at the store for us when they are made and we begin promotions. The conversation that followed convinced me of one thing: Anglicans need to do some serious image-management.
“So, Brian McLaren’s going to be coming to town in the spring to do a conference. Once I’ve got a poster made up, would you be willing to put one up here at the store?” I asked.
He replied, “Brian McLaren’s coming? Who’s hosting it?”
“Christ Church Cathedral”
“Christ Chu… What?” Shock. Disbelief. Confusion. All were fairly evident in facial expression and tone of voice.
I tried to clarify, but how much clearer could I be? There is only one Christ Church Cathedral in town. “Christ Church Cathedral. Downtown. The Anglican Cathedral…”
“But, who’s hosting it? I mean, who’s putting the event on? Who’s bringing him in?” He still doesn’t understand.
“The adult education committee at the Cathedral is hosting and has invited him.” That’s right – still Christ Church Cathedral… I’m not changing my answer any time soon here.
“Is anyone coming with him?” Yes, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Would that make it easier to understand that Brian is coming to an Anglican church?
“Yes, Steve Bell will be doing the music for the conference and a concert at the Cathedral on the Saturday night.”
Now we’re on more familiar ground: “Oh, Steve Bell! He didn’t come this year – he normally comes every year. Good. Sure, you can hang a poster. Do you need a book table at the conference? Because we can provide that. And help with promotions.”
Why is it so hard to imagine an Anglican church bringing in an emergent church thinker/speaker/writer? Can we not be on the forefront of re-imagining how we do church? Is that sort of thing limited to a specific denomination or group of the Christian church? I don’t think so. It is unfortunate that certain parts of it have the reputation of being traditional or unchanging. Certainly aspects are. But aspects of all institutions are fairly unchanging – the Anglican church is not alone amongst churches in that regard. There are exciting things happening in the global Anglican church as well as locally in our diocese. I was at a meeting this evening discussing the starting of some of these things. Perhaps an inter-denominational, ecumenical conference hosted at the Cathedral will be a way of opening ourselves up to the wider community and shattering some of those images.