WestHill United Church’s Vision – Part 1 – Interconnectedness

Our grounding is the interconnectedness of all life

“It is with a deep sense of awe and joy that we acknowledge the wonder of life in all its dimensions.  As part of the organic whole we experience life intimately, yet recognize that much is, and may always be, beyond our comprehension.

We attest to the capacity to experience and create meaning and purpose beyond physical survival and material gain. This dimension of living, which may be referred to as the spiritual, reaches to the depths of our inner self and also transcends the self as we connect with others and with all of life.

We experience both freedom and limitations in our lives. Within that tension we strive to engage with others as interrelated, self-reflective beings, responsible for our choices.

Moved by the interrelatedness of life, we choose as foundational the ethical and relational values we believe enhance life and strive to integrate these in the priorities we set and the decisions we make, both individually and as a community.  
 
We are aware of the wide diversity of understandings of the concepts of truth, goodness, meaning, and spirituality, as well as the many promises, predictions, and truth claims of religions and philosophies. Within that diversity, we ground our choices in our interconnections and, with our core values as a guide, explore and evaluate possibilities, embrace what we each deem helpful, and demonstrate respect for differences.

We open ourselves to new understandings of life and relationship that challenge our previously held perspectives, while availing ourselves of aspects of our heritage that resonate with our values.”

*Taken from ‘WestHill United Church’s website’

What do you think of West Hill’s part 1 of their vision statement? What do you agree with? What do you disagree with?

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18 thoughts on “WestHill United Church’s Vision – Part 1 – Interconnectedness

  1. I see a strength and a weakness in it’s ‘vagueness’.

    Strength – inclusion

    Weakness – Lack of direction

    I would of just loved them to quote some of why they believe this statement based on some of the teachings of Jesus, which have no reference here whatsoever. As far as I know, they are basing this on some philosophy foreign to the biblical texts (ie: new age ideals).

    I figure it’s purely biblical, in fact I agree with their statements and thoughts, but even I would of slapped in ‘love God, love your neighbor, and love yourself’ as a piece of the work, quoted some Genesis for the planet ideas, etc.

    However, it is inclusive.

  2. WOW, its strong because its inclusive but its weak because it lacks direction. Geez, and here I thought the idea of inclusion would be a direct strength. I guess we should all go back to the direct exclusionary ideas that most theologies promote. Im sure that would be MUCH easier to understand.

  3. “Geez, and here I thought the idea of inclusion would be a direct strength.” (John)

    I did call it a strength though, which was what I admired about it. I guess I am missing your point.

  4. My point is that the inclusion aspect is its direction. I find that all theologies ideas are meant to exclude if you dont follow their direction. It seems this church has a different direction.

  5. “It seems this church has a different direction” (T4T)

    Wait, how do you know this is a church (outside of my title confirming it is)? That word ‘church’ (or something similar) doesn’t even appear in that write-up.

    I can bet that if I took those few paragraphs and placed the in front of someone and asked them what organization they thought this belonged to – the answers would vary but a church would be one among many answers.

    Thats what I mean by ‘direct’.

    I also believe it is possible to be direct and inclusive, one does not exclude the other.

  6. Ok, so as mentioned there is no mention of God or Jesus in this section. I think this is a deliberate move on their part to show that they are not basing this statement or their church on anything from God or Jesus. The subtitle for this section is pretty clear on this too — “Our grounding is the interconnectedness of all life”. This is their vision statement, so it’s a bit like a blog’s policy statement or an academic paper’s declaration of premises/presuppositions. There are no turtles underneath this vision, and there is no use or mention of God or Jesus or the Bible.

    So what are they using to justify this vision? A values-based foundation rather than a belief-based system. No authoritative text(s). No magic. Instead, there is a recognition of plurality. There is recognition of valuing the individual’s life and growth over valuing the justifying story held so dear. They are facilitators for service, not authorities for power.

    I think it needs to be understood just how far they are trying to stretch things here. They are not doing anything in the name of Jesus, in the name of God, in the name of the Bible. I have not checked out their services, but according to Vosper’s book they have removed all use of the word God from the service and only use the Bible sparingly among many other heritages “that resonate with our values”. So we cannot just simply figure it is biblical.

    Have you seen what they did with the Lord’s Prayer? They don’t use the Lord’s prayer at all as most people would know it. (Mind you, it’s kind of become an interesting fad now in more progressive christian churches to rewrite/reform the old tropes anyway…)

  7. a vision statement doesn’t need to have direction. it’s how they view the world from their P.O.V. some churches state “and here’s where we see it heading” and then talk about the rapture or whatever, but this church doesn’t do that, thank God! to get direction, check the mission statement. that talks about what the church should do, is doing, and will do forever onward until whatever happens.

    the thing about “liberal” churches (i use that term for the use of the modern criticisms, not political viewpoint) is that they will provide you the grounding and resources to make up your own mind. they will not give you the platitudes to recite. you have to articulate your own statement of faith, the church doesn’t dictate it to you.

  8. “So what are they using to justify this vision? A values-based foundation rather than a belief-based system. No authoritative text(s). No magic. Instead, there is a recognition of plurality. There is recognition of valuing the individual’s life and growth over valuing the justifying story held so dear” (Andrew)

    I do admire that about this piece of the vision statement, I like it’s goal. I guess it makes sense that it is based on a value foundation rather then a purely belief based system, something I also am strongly in favor of.

    “they will not give you the platitudes to recite. you have to articulate your own statement of faith, the church doesn’t dictate it to you” (ZG1)

    I also like this about the statement, you get to decide how this all fits biblically for you and what it all means for your daily life (which is how church should be anyways as a community).

    “but according to Vosper’s book they have removed all use of the word God from the service and only use the Bible sparingly among many other heritages “that resonate with our values”.” (Andrew)

    Pieces of this I agree with, but is this a church anymore or just a Unitarian meeting now? Why should someone feel the need to reduce what is taught in the bible, which is pretty clearly about God, neighbor, and self? Are they embarrased by the book? Do they think it is ‘out of touch’?

    I know they want to incorporate more viewpoints and cultural ideals – which I think is cool – but are they eliminating being a church or fellowship in the process? Seems Unitarian to me.

    Again, I am not against what this church (or whatever they label themselves) is doing, I applaude some of the vision and goals for the congregation. However, the glaring weakness seems to be lack of direction regarding what it is they believe and why. Noted it is a vision statement and can be ambigious – but it’s bordering on too lean.

  9. so what’s wrong with being a unitarian? you’re already there, you’re a Ebonite view of Jesus (totally human) and non-Trinitarian thinking have landed you there. plus they stated in their “Our Belief” section: After all, being Christian shouldn’t stop at what you believe. like i said, you provide the direction of the congregation, it’s not a top down thing, and i love them for that! the only way you’ll alleviate the vagueness and ambiguity is to show up to a worship and see what they’re like in real time.

  10. “so what’s wrong with being a unitarian?” (ZG1)

    Nothing, but then shouldn’t they come and say they are?

    “you’re already there, you’re a Ebonite view of Jesus (totally human) and non-Trinitarian thinking have landed you there” (ZG1)

    Actually, this is inaccurate. My views have landed me in a version of Christianity that lines up closer with Judaism and I think also closer with a Jesus that was culturally and spiritually Jewish. If that puts me outside the frame of modern Gentile Christianity – so be it – I’m trying to get to the heart of what is in the scriptures.

    As for Unitarian, many of the aspects about me are related to this field of thinking – I agree. However, I don’t fully believe what Unitarians believe either and also feel, rightly so, that Unitarianism and Christianity are different. Which is the point I am making.

    I’ll have to check their ‘Our belief’ section, maybe that’s more handy than this vision.

  11. “Nothing, but then shouldn’t they come and say they are”

    but they’re not. they’re UCC. sometimes known as “Unitarians Considering Christ.” there can be that flavor, i came out of such a church, but you’ll notice a big difference between UCC and UU in many things. i can’t be too specific here without knowing this specific church. my home church always uses the lectionary and is uses a lot of Christ language which many UU’s turn away from. yet they also bring in poetry and other faith traditions. this church may do the same.

    “My views have landed me in a version of Christianity that lines up closer with Judaism and I think also closer with a Jesus that was culturally and spiritually Jewish. ”

    i don’t see how my description of you is inaccurate, all you did was end up describing what i did with more words. Ebonite is the “Jerusalem view” the “super apostle” view that Paul was writing against, led by James (the brother of Jesus, bishop of the communities of Jerusalem). these were the Christians who still considered themselves Jewish, but not necessarily Messianic Jews as we know them in present day. Paul’s version “won” so to speak and the trinitarian/gentile version prevailed where Jesus is now Christ.

    i think you’d be right at home with this church because, while they sound very Unitarian, they are still very focused on Jesus and the christian tradition. i think you’d find a home here.

  12. “Paul’s version “won” so to speak and the trinitarian/gentile version prevailed where Jesus is now Christ” (ZG1)

    I agree it puts me on the outskirts of the Christian faith. Maybe it puts me in the Unitarian camp, but again, I don’t believe what Unitarians believe – so I am not the same (in that sense). I believe closely what Ebionites believe, this is true, but again – not exactly either…I make full admission I am a Gentile and follow the Noahide laws (and am grafted into the faith tree via Christ). Now what exactly is that? I would just say an honest Christian.

    Again, I have no problem with this church (outside aspects of it’s vague vision statement) – I agree they seem like a great bunch of people that I share tonnes in common with…but really no more than any denominational church of Christian persuasion.

  13. “really? what exactly do you think they believe?” (ZG1)

    Good point, I just checked into it…in my beliefs I am a Unitarian unbelievably (who woulda thunk it).

    Wikipedia (Unitarianism beliefs circa 19th Century):

    (1) One God and the oneness or unity of God.
    (2) The life and teachings of Jesus Christ constitute the exemplar model for living one’s own life.
    Reason, rational thought, science, and philosophy coexist with faith in God.
    (3) Humans have the ability to exercise free will in a responsible, constructive and ethical manner with the assistance of religion.
    (4) Human nature in its present condition is neither inherently corrupt nor depraved (see Original Sin), but capable of both good and evil, as God intended.
    (5) No religion can claim an absolute monopoly on the Holy Spirit or theological truth.
    (6) Though the authors of the Bible were inspired by God, they were humans and therefore subject to human error.
    (7) Traditional doctrines that (they believe) malign God’s character or veil the true nature and mission of Jesus Christ, such as the doctrines of predestination, eternal damnation, and the vicarious sacrifice or satisfaction theory of the Atonement are rejected.

    I actually never put a label on myself before but after reading all this I would say I am in the Unitarian theology for sure. I add in a few things they dont (ie: Noahide laws as seen in Paul’s works and Acts) but that’s neither here nor there.

    Thanks for the point in this direction – maybe I may have found a definition for what it is I am saying.

  14. UCC – sometimes known as “Unitarians Considering Christ.

    I just wanted to say that this has to be one of the funniest and most accurate descriptions I have seen for the UCC. A cover story recently in the Obsverver (A UC of Canada magazine) was entitled something like , “Why are we losing so many members to the Unitarians??”

    My personal problems with UU centre around point (1) and (2) of the wiki
    list SVS quotes above. That, and the still overuse and misuse of the word “God” (again, my opinion). But the UU are quite receptive even to atheists.

    As far as what Westhill and Vosper are doing, I feel like they are in some ways just painting themselves with a Christian heritage stripe but are distinguishing themselves from UU for little to no reason. It’s the likely consequence of where they are progressing. Maybe it’s just the history of the building they are so tied to. Or they just really like the phrase Progressive Christianity….

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