“Fear not little flock…”

The Committee on Publication for Ontario, Canada shares insights and inspiration after attending Annual Meeting 2023.

Kim Grove, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Ontario, Canada

Decline. Unfortunately, that is the word being used today to talk about religions around the world. Studies, such as those conducted by the Pew Research Center, have indicated that people tend to be leaving places of worship in favor of a more personal or secular approach to understanding and interacting in the world. For the faithful who continue to experience the value of attending a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque such statistics can be concerning. But doesn’t our faith also provide a ray of hope to challenge this narrative?

Rather than eliciting a sense of fear about numbers or showcasing new flashy tactics for growth, I appreciated that the annual meeting of my denomination, the Christian Science Church, considered the richness and value in recognizing God’s promises for humanity and how the spark of discovering, or rediscovering, the value of faith in our lives is truly transformative. 

Rich Evans, Chairman of the Church’s Board of Directors, related the biblical account of the disciples’ experience after Jesus Christ’s crucifixion to what many churches are facing today. After Jesus was crucified, the disciples dealt with a tremendous sense of discouragement. Evans shared that “their perception had been the loss of their master, coupled with failure to trust in his promise.” As a result, they reverted to what they had done before meeting Jesus – fishing. To make matters worse, they toiled all night and caught nothing. It might have seemed at that moment that a decline in their confidence of Jesus’ teachings had seeped into their lives. But Evans went on to refer to Jesus appearing to the disciples the morning after the crucifixion on the shore of the Sea of Galilee that wiped out that discouragement. Following Jesus' instruction, they cast their nets and caught netfuls of fish as they recognized the stranger on the shore as their master. “But this breakfast experience with the now recognized resurrected Jesus renewed their expectations, made way for witnessing the ascension and set them on an ascending path not just for themselves but for others to follow,” Evans said. In much the same way, those in attendance of the church meeting were encouraged to go forward cherishing an “ascension of thought, not decline.”

So what might this look like for places of worship around the world who see their numbers dwindling? Starting with a sense of decline or loss, with sorrow and worry clouding our outlook, the focus can all too easily slip into trying desperately to convert others and increase numbers. However, when thought is ascending, the intent becomes less about trying to make something happen and more about sharing our blessings because we are filled with gratitude. From this basis, already complete with God’s love and promise, we have an opportunity to share that joy with others, without condition or stipulation. 

I appreciated the reminder in my church’s meeting that as children of God we do not need to fear, but rather can love and trust in the power of God’s love. We can rest assured in Jesus’ words of encouragement, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Instead of immersing myself in discouragement, I’m finding great value in loving and applying the spiritual teaching Jesus has given all of us about the powerful presence of God right where we are — the kingdom of heaven at hand. I am seeing more each day that I too can experience this “ascension of thought” that lifts me and others up in large ways and small and can bless our world.

Annual Meeting of The Mother Church