When an evangelical church adopts a phrase such as "Serve the World" as part of its slogan or mission statement, watch out; it's an indication that the church is turning in the direction of the social gospel, which is in fact a false gospel. I'm not saying that works such as those mentioned in the story below or community or social service works are necessarily bad, but if such works done by a church are not distinctively Christian, then the church is merely attaching its name to the sort of "good works" that anyone, saved or unsaved, might do. The further a church goes in the direction of serving the world, the more likely it is to become an institution of the world, and will no longer be recognizable as a Christian church.
As reported by Jim Coyle of the Toronto Star, July 14, 2012:
CODRINGTON, ONT.—It was the first morning of summer, before 9 o’clock already shirt-clingy, neck-swabbing hot, the air redolent with fresh-cut grass as two men on mowers kept the soccer field and baseball diamond in trim.
If this was Thursday, and it was, that meant line-dancing. And the parking lot outside the Codrington Community Centre was starting to fill.
Inside, coffee was already on the brew, the little public library was up and running, some line-dancing early-birds were chatting about their club’s new banner, and a directors’ meeting was starting about whether to improve the signage out front.
Let’s face it. The Codrington Community Centre signs have a lot of work to do.
There’s music night (mostly country) on Mondays at 7 p.m. Tuesday morning breakfast (at a bargain $3 a plate). Line dancing on Thursday mornings. Euchre every Friday at 8 p.m. Women’s Institute meetings the second Wednesday of every month at 7:45.
Not to mention the seasonal delights of trout barbecues, family days, roast-beef dinners and functions of some sort or other at Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween and Christmas.
The Codrington Community Centre is a blink-and-you-miss-it affair on Highway 30 north of the 401 — not far from where Trinity Anglican Church of Colborne was recently deconsecrated and just up the road from where Carman United Church is fighting for its survival, like many churches of all denominations these days around Ontario.
In some ways, the community centre was one rural area’s answer to the closing of a church — an expression of the notion that if God is love, and if love is action, authentic spirituality is found not in mere ritual piety, but in how people treat and care for one another.
Cathy McCann knows the sorrow of losing a church that can be a community’s place of comfort and joy and also the setting of life’s most important milestones.
McCann also knows that, sometimes, as T.S. Eliot wrote, “the end is where we start from.”
In 1929, Codrington United Church was built literally from the bricks of Wesleyan and Episcopal Methodist churches that it replaced and its construction included, along with its own, their original cornerstones.
Its building, a local historian wrote, was “a great example of co-operation in a common cause.” And for generations, it was the area’s community centre.
In 1968, owing to a diminishing congregations and church amalgamations, it was closed. And two years later — farming communities fearing that old churches risk suffering the indignity of becoming chicken barns — it was torn down.
Needless to say, there was huge sorrow and “everybody was disappointed,” said McCann, a Cobourg girl who’s lived in Codrington since she married husband Howard 52 years ago.
People had family pews. There were potluck dinners that required multiple sittings. “People had been raised in that church, maybe married,” McCann said.
“There was all the fundraising they did to restore that steeple. There was this little church, with this little congregation, but they were bound they were going to do it.”
And then it was gone, dismantled, various parts of it scattered around the region.
At its closure, members scattered to churches in Brighton and elsewhere, and probably a quarter “didn’t go anywhere,” she said, but drifted away, disillusioned...
...If, for most people, other houses of worship were eventually found, the loss of a local social anchor left a large hole. “We always used the church basement as our community centre,” Cathy McCann says.
The empty lot had been turned over to the local Women’s Institute and was for a time used as a park and the site of picnics and barbecues. After a time, thoughts turned to fundraising for a new community centre.
It was no easy task. There were negotiations and hoops to jump through with the municipality for any new development. There were also grants to pursue in those days from the former Wintario lottery. And, this being farm country, there were other ways to raise money.
There were bakes sales, hay rides, quilt draws, walkathons, bikeathons, yard sales. McCann’s family donated a woodlot and community volunteers “got together, cut firewood and sold it all winter.” Manure was bagged up and sold. “I don’t know what all we did.”
One thing McCann does now, she laughs now, is that “we did not know it was going to take seven years! But we were bound we were going to show (the at times unhelpful local) council we could do it.”
Do it they did. The original lot, unsuitable for the larger centre, was sold and another property a couple of lots south was purchased. The community centre was built in 1982. And, 30 years on, just about everything in its operation continues to be done by volunteers.
As McCann says, her choice of language a nod to the centre’s genesis, “in Codrington, no matter what we undertake, we are blessed with any number of willing workers.”
Liana Palmer is a retired parole officer from Warkworth Institute who arrived in the Brighton area in 1980 and has been an enthusiastic volunteer ever since.
In the last 30 years, there have been a lot of city folk retiring to the area who are delighted to find “this sense of community, because they didn’t have it in Toronto, or Ajax or Pickering,” she says.
“So our little Women’s Institute has grown a lot, because new people join it. And once you join, you’re volunteering for everything that happens here.”
She says they’re still trying to figure out a way to get teenagers more involved. Then again, who isn’t?
In 2011, as McCann reported in her recent newsletter, the Codrington hall was used 688 times — the centre for functions of one sort or another almost twice a day. In time, the board hired a maintenance person because the hall is so busy...