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by Herbert O'Driscoll

The process we call secularization began much earlier in Western Europe than in North America. However today in Canada we see declining congregations and the marginalizing of Christian faith. Recently a report in the Anglican Journal with its headline GONE BY 2040? has sharply focused Anglican thinking about our future.

Within the limits of this piece I want to point to the immense significance of the question mark in that headline. The question mark rejects passive acceptance of such a future and invites our creative responses. This is exactly what many of us in the Cathedral are doing in our series of meetings named “Greater Works than These.” (GWTT)

Jurgan Moltmann, a German theologian, gave us an invaluable insight. He reminds us that the classical world had two Latin terms for the future. One is FUTURUM, the other is ADVENTUS.

Futurum is the future formed by our calculations and projections. For example - “if present trends continue, this will be the future”. Moltmann calls this the future of social calculation. While not denying its usefulness, he says that it is incomplete. It needs ADVENTUS.

ADVENTUS is the future we discern when, having made our projections, we begin to work together to form a vision of the future we wish to bring about; in this case a revitalized though changed faith and church. This exercise Moltmann calls the future of ethical anticipation. He is telling us that we need FUTURUM to give our visioning a reality check. We need ADVENTUS to free us from being prisoners of our own calculations.

If an Anglican Journal had been delivered to 23 Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes might have said to Dr. Watson “Watson, what is important is the question mark.” When Watson asks “What question mark, Holmes?” Holmes would have said “Why, man, the question mark that follows the headline, Gone by 2040? Come on Watson! the game’s afoot!”

Herbert O'Driscoll is a retired minister and prolific author of books, hymns and articles.