This morning on BBC radio (yes, Millennials, people do listen to radio and it was with my iPhone), I learned about Gretta Vosper and was immediately intrigued by her story. You see, she’s a pastor in a Toronto-based church. But she doesn’t believe in God or Jesus.
Good lord. How does that work?
Her 100-strong congregation is taught that God exists in the relationships they build with one other. When they carry another member through hard times, that is when a miracle happens and there is God. And God’s work is done when they are able to find ways to become resilient, not fade away from their own troubles. There is no God up there who looks down and decides who needs to be lifted or tested. Vosper’s church also has no Bible. The congregation agrees God’s Word is a human construct. They sing hymns but the songs are about love and compassion, and the human spirit. Not God and Jesus and the Light.
Vosper is an atheist pastor – and an ordained minister of the United Church. That title has come under review by the Church and she might actually not have her official title soon. But that doesn’t mean she lacks appeal. Her congregation supports her. I think, and I’m sure many others will agree, that she is fascinating.
Her church sounds remarkably like a spiritual expression of positive psychology. It’s a sanctuary for people to find affirmative values without having to deal with damnation and doctrine. Both outcomes are the same: people feel better about themselves, and that positive identity may even help them be better human beings to others. Community good is done (at the cost of personal salvation, perhaps?). Now I’m no Christian or atheist. I consider myself very open to the spiritual world. Unlike Vosper, I believe there is a higher power. But it’s more energy than the eternal God.
I don’t judge her practice or anyone else’s for that matter. I actually believe her kind of practice will spread. In these troubled times, people want healing and betterment, and if there is a moral leader who can help them without having an agenda of making them believe this or do that, it’s a no-brainer that people will respond. I wish Vosper the very best outcome from the review.