Dawn Hutchings B.A.(Hon.); M.Div.
During these first few months of my retirement from parish ministry, questions about ‘the Church’s’ survival continue to be asked of me. After 23 years of approaching such questions from the perspective of professional leadership in a mainline denomination, I grew weary of speculating on the future, even as I recognized that as a member of the clergy, it was my job to participate in the generation of hope for the future of the church. I expected that my retirement would put an end to dealing with such questions. However, people continue to ask me, with renewed vigour, “Can will, or indeed should ‘the Church’ survive?” It is as if my questioners expect that my newfound freedom will allow me to respond with some newly discovered candour that will push me to speak some hidden truths which will reveal to them the way forward. Alas, although my retirement does afford me different perspectives, I have yet to discover a talent for soothsaying. Fortunately, my candour remains intact. So, from various different perspectives, some of them new and some of them not so new, let me respond as I was trained to do, with hope: “Yes, I do hope the church will survive!” and “No, I hope the church will not survive!”
For far too many selfish reasons, I do hope that the church will survive. But for the sake of LOVE, not only do I hope the church does not survive, I believe that the church should not survive. Believing, as I do, that the DIVINE MYSTERY which we call “GOD” is LOVE, I am convinced that whatever our concept of church is, surely church ought to be the embodiment of that LOVE. Or, at the very least, church ought to be about the work of empowering its members to embody LOVE in the world. Sadly, much of what passes for church fails to either embody LOVE or to engender LOVE in the world. So, because the church has at the very least inspired hope in me, I hope that the church does not survive. My hope for the church’s demise is buttressed by my faith in resurrection which encourages me to imagine what new kind of church might rise up out of the death throes of ‘the Church’.
After more than two decades of leadership in the church, the best definition of the DIVINE MYSTERY which I can proclaim with confidence is that GOD is LOVE and that LOVE is BEYOND the BEYOND and BEYOND that also. We must look BEYOND Church in order to participate in the birth of a church which concerns itself with embodying LOVE, while it empowers its members to be the BODY of LOVE in the world. So, it is the resurrection of LOVE upon which I hope to fix my gaze as I peer BEYOND Church to explore some of the contours of the BODY of LOVE. I hope you’ll join me as together we explore the possibilities of LOVE’s resurrection among and beyond us.
Over the course of the coming months, I will be posting BEYOND Church. It is my hope to look with compassion upon the death of what we know as ‘the Church’ confidant in LOVE’s power to resurrect something worthy of the LOVE which is BEYOND, the BEYOND, and BEYOND that also; something BEYOND Church, something in which the MYSTERY which is our LOVER, BELOVED, and LOVE Itself might find expression, in, with, through, and beyond us.
I have so appreciated discovering your website a few days ago. I have just started training as a Presbyterian Minister here in New Zealand. Currently it is a fairly conservative church but thankfully there are some progressives among us! I have just began my 2 year placement at a church of elderly people in a small rural town. I am to preach for the first time this Easter Sunday on the aspect of Chrisitanity that I find most challenging. I had already entitled my sermon Practising Resurrection and was delighted to find your reflections which have certainly assisted my sermon preparation.
I just wanted to write and say thank you and that I will be checking into your website regularly.
Hi! I could have sworn I’ve visited this web site before but after going through some of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m certainly pleased I discovered it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!
Oh, what a holy vision you have! I am blessed to have finally found such a community myself a year ago. Blessings on your ministry.
Hi! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any trouble with hackers?
My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing many months of hard work due to no backup.
Do you have any solutions to prevent hackers?
likely no coincidence that the last time I was here was last year at easter, alas holy week is stirring me too..thanks for the gifts of sharing your blessings ,reflections and reactions..gonna keep in closer contact TB2G
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Thank you, Pastor Dawn, for all your words of wisdom. Reading your blog on a regular basis has truly lifted my spirits on many occasions. Wishing you much continuing joy in your ministry.
Just found you here. What a beautiful site.
Would you be willing to share your feminist Psalm 118 you reference for Palm Sunday?
I’d love to see it!
Hi Annie: I’m out of town at the moment so I don’t have access to all my files and can’t find the source. But here is the psalm as it was used:
Give thanks to El Shaddai, for She is goodness itself!
Her love has no end!
Let all God’s people say, “Her love has no end!”
Let all who serve God say, “Her love has no end!
Let all who are devoted to God say, “Her love has no end!”
The gates of God’s generous goodness are open,
and I will enter them with thanksgiving!
And the just and faithful will enter by my side.
I will thank El Shaddai for answering me, for making me whole.
She takes a stone that has been rejected and makes it the corner stone of Her purpose!
Her transforming action is marvelous in our eyes!
Today is the day El Shaddai has made!
Be glad in it, an dance for joy,
for God has saved and prospered us!
Blessed are you who come in the name of El Shaddai!
We bless you in the presence of God, who has given us light.
We bear branches of celebration in festal procession.
We make our way to the altar of adoration.
We offer God our heartfelt thanks!
We extol Her glorious name!
We praise Her goodness, singing, “Her love has no end!
Thank you so much!
It is leaders like you that provide hope for many us stuck in the literalist Christian wasteland.
Thanks. Peace be with you.
I just want to thank you for your blog. I’m a new pastor in the UMC, in a small fairly small town in Colorado. Those who attend church around here are mostly conservative, and I feel as though our little church is THE progressive voice in the valley. I frequently start my search for sermon inspirations right here. You are indeed a blessing. Thank you again, and if you’re ever in Western Colorado look me up! You have a standing invite.
Thanks so much for your encouragement Brad.
Thank you for your beautiful faith and work, Pastor Hutchings. We will be using some of your Ash Wednesday service here at our United Church of Christ church here in New Mexico. (We will be attributing your work to you, of course!). Thank you, thank you, thank you.
In sermon prep, after wading through each weeks commentaries, I often turn to your posts for inspiration. I just searched your posting for Luke 14:1, 7-14 from 2013 and had to “humbly” read about Americans, LOL, especially in light of our current political elections. I have referred to your sermons many times at our ELCA Lutheran text study. I have also quoted you from the pulpit! You rock! Thank you and God’s blessings on your valuable work.
Andrew passed on this link to me which I will try and review before Christmas. Please pass on my regards. He is a gentle Christian and a devoted disciple.
I am a long time member of a UCC church in San Diego. I came upon your sermon on John 3:1-17 in a search for a progressive understanding of this scripture passage. I look forward to listening to it. Having read about you on your “About” page, I plan to revisit your website to see what else you have to share. I expect it will be enriching. Thank you.
Our small rural church is currently without a minister. I conduct the services in our church regularly. I stumbled upon your website while researching for sermon. I absolutely love the fact that you offer the “listen now” option as well as the written word. Your inspiration has helped me great deal. Thank you!
You give me hope for the church. Thank you! I’m also in ministry with one foot in the church and one foot out. Your sermons make me want to jump in with both feet.
Jump in with all that you are. Then speak out and make the changes you want to see happen! Shalom
Hi! I am looking forward to meeting you in Cleveland, Ohio at the Annual Retreat and Meeting of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.
I am looking forward to working with and learning from the women of ARCWP.
You speak of being a seeker of divinity. I like Michael Morwood’s “Tomorrow’s Catholic” where he says “Jesus was fully human just like you and me”. This implies so much. I also see Jesus as fully “reflecting” God and each person of all creation as being called to be just like Jesus. This is a call to become what we may call divine and also reflect God by giving up and fully moving past our selfishness which might be seen as a misuse of our consciousness and self-consciousness. I see each person as being like a partial sum of a convergent infinite series and Jesus as its limit. Example:
1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + 1/32 + 1/64 + . . . = 1. I see each of us as a partial sum such as 1/2, 3/4, 7/8, 15/16, 63/64, or whatever and Jesus as 1. We probably cannot attain 1 but we can with G-d’s help get good enough for G-d’s work. I am confident that the old stories of Jesus can be fully and accurately retold in new stories that are free of literal interpretations that cause cognitive dissonance in 21st century culture. In the 1st century the stories they told about Jesus and which were handed down to us made perfect sense to most people living in the culture of that time. I see Jesus as a man upon whom a religious mythology of the day was overlaid on his life and told in terms of the scripture stories defining that religion. The resulting personage became the image we call the Christ. This picture of what went on over time is no longer in conflict with my 21st century culture and for me does not diminish the importance of Jesus in any way. I also see Jesus as savior of all homo sapiens for by the following way he has shown (and which we perhaps can see in others) we have a way off the conveyer belt moving toward technological destruction that can result from disregarding others as we misuse technology for selfish purpose.
I am forever indebted to authors John Dominic Crossan, John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg, Michael Morwood, Daniel Smith and some other authors of the Jesus Seminar.
How do I make little corrections?
Not sure what you see on the site but my view includes an ‘edit” button to the left of the reply button?
Your reflections, your words, inspire me as i prepare to speak in new ways about Christianity to my community. Thank you for your wisdom and insights!
Thank you for your wisdom and insights. It helps me to into words, and give clarity for some ways to talk about Christianity in a progressive way.
Christ is risen!
Your Epiphany sermon on Progressive Christianity is the greatest I have ever read! I need to memorize every phrase.
Very good to hear that the sermon moved you. Shalom
Thank you Dawn. I have been struggling deeply and painfully for a whole now with how to reconcile the faith I have had for 2 decades with the realities of the world we live in, and all that we keep discovering and learning as a human race. I have been trying to find a way to keep hold of the God who is creator and energy and spirit and love, while not losing my integrity and suspending all belief, as you say, to accept doctrines that just do not make sense to me/fit with reality for me (such as original sin). You have articulated so many of the questions and concerns and ponderings I’ve been churning over and over in my mind in the wee hours. Reading your words and knowing that someone with far more experience than me has and is wrestling with these things, and articulating them so powerfully, is deeply comforting, and is the reassurance I have been crying out to the Divine for throughout this wilderness time. So thank you a thousand times over, and I look forward to delving into all that you have shared on this blog.
Hi dawn, I just found your sermon about Tabitha … I just adore your work… Thankyou so much!! I am exploring the meaning of bible stories to try to communicate them to my 14 year old son in a way that enriched his life… we’ve lost so much wisdom along the way. Big Thankyou to you and much love and bright blessings, Tracey (from Brisbane Australia)
This is, I think, the third time I have written you a note; I only mention this because I don’t know if I’m reaching you.
Dawn, you are a superb theologian and excellent preacher. Thank you for your discipline, scholarship, and courage.
One More Thank You…. Cos in our professional work we need to be reminded that our work matters. Like others I am “the” progressive voice in my region, and some of the people in our wee congregations (there are 3) are starting to find vocabulary to express an ineffable faith. This message was succinct and I love your delivery style. Makes me miss no longer having family visits to do in the Barrie area. I serve in rural SW MB through the UC of Canada; anytime you need a break from the cell phone….there’s a guest room and lots of wide open space. Heather
Thank-you Heather! Good to know there are progressive voices in MB. As soon as this lockdown ends my wife and I will be traveling through your neck of the woods as we travel to Vancouver to finally see my family…so perhaps we can share a brew. In the meantime welcome to the site. Hopefully you may find time to join us in one of our Zoom faith CHATs. Shalom, dawn
Dawn, some time ago, you said you would like to read “some of my stuff.” I Now have it finished. By what method can I send it to you?? It’s length is 11 pages….
THE SEARCH FOR HOPE, TRUST AND CONTENTMENT
for the NONES, DONES AND DISCOURAGED
Thank you for modeling Christianity.
Hi David you can send it via email to email@example.com I look forward to reading your work. Shalom
Dear Pastor Dawn,
I just wanted to thank you for the beauty of both your faith and your words. I am a member of a small intentional, inclusive community in the Christian tradition and I often use your past sermons (shortened a bit) as readings for our liturgies. We like to use current thoughts along with the traditional readings. We end each with the phrase “Inspired words,” because they truly are!
I especially wanted to reach out after this past Pentecost Sunday. We listened to your beautiful account of the way the Spirit flowed from within the followers of Jesus found in a past homily “The Spirit Alive in Our Midst: a Sermon for Pentecost Sunday.” Our other reading was from Michael Morwood, “Celebrating the Spirit in Everyone.”
Our community found your thoughts inspiring and many shared aspects that especially touched them in our shared homily. A thought shared by one of our members who had been a Hospice counselor, was that he loved the way that you told the story from the perspective of grief. He said that one of the most important ways to deal with grief is to try to keep the person with you as you go on…and that’s exactly what your interpretation of the Pentecost story was showing! I had been moved mostly by the quickening of excitement and fire that I actually felt reading your words, but I thought that my friend’s interpretation was also a wonderful way to look at it, and wanted to share it with you!
Thanks again for the way that you talk and live Christianity. You help others to also make a difference in their lives and their world!