Despair, faith and evangelism
In fact I talk about this all the time (at least on this blog). I'm always arguing for us to face up to the reality of this situation. I constanty want to see the statistics that accurately describe exactly what our situation is.
So why not despair? I find it difficult to answer that question. Maybe it hasn't really sunk into me. Maybe I will despair more in the future. We all have our good days and bad days.
But overall I am genuinely filled with hope and faith. Why? Well perhaps because my faith is not ultimately in the institution, but in God. I have been saved by an inner transforming power, and I know the spirit's power to change lives, and I know that spiritual communities can become instruments of that transformation. I trust that that transformation will work through many communities, through many people. All I need to do is cooperate with that spirit.
I trust that the spirit can work through the Unitarian community. Those parts that are rooted in the spirit and make a difference in people's lives will grow and produce fruit, those parts that aren't rooted in the spirit, or that no longer serve people's needs will whither and die. There may be a nostalgic sadness about what will die, but if we view institutions or practices as serving the greater mission of the spirit, then we can't despair at that death.
So I suppose I don't despair because I can feel the spirit moving (particularly) in my local religious community, Bank Street Unitarian Chapel. I feel the spirit is there and we are changing lives. As long as I discern where the spirit is blowing, and we remain open and adaptable, then I'm not going to despair. This doesn't mean everything is brilliant at my congregation. It doesn't even mean that we're growing, we're not. But I trust we're moving in the right direction. I trust we're in the process of reaching out and changing lives. I trust the future has many possibilities.
So I don't despair.