World Council of Churches
One of the most valuable tools of today's digital publishing world is the Internet search. By setting up "alerts" for certain phrases, enterprising writers and editors can keep abreast of developments in their areas of interest.
Among my top "alerts" is the phrase "vital congregations," as might be expected for someone who coordinates an online forum about The United Methodist Church and its future. Usually this daily message contains a reference to the "dashboard" of statistics, but on Sept. 16 there was a different search result from the Winnipeg Free Press:
"Sometimes making peace is as simple as making a little space for each other.
"Three congregations based out of a St. Vital church plan to make a little more space for their neighbours next week by inviting them in to pray for peace. The interfaith service commemorating the United Nations International Day of Peace is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19, at St. Mary Magdalene, 3 St. Vital Rd."
According to semi-trusty Wikipedia, St. Vital is a district of the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Pronounced "Vee-tal" in the French fashion, the district was named St. Vital by Archbishop Taché in 1860, in honor of his colleague, Father Vital-Justin Grandin.
So what has this oddity of Canadian life have to do with a United Methodist program? Nothing direct, of course, merely one of those coincidences of naming that make us aware of the Holy Spirit's prompting to look at things from a different perspective.
Think of it this way: These days when United Methodists say "vital," we mean strictly numbers -- numbers on the membership rolls, in worship attendance, in Sunday school, in annual budgets, in apportionment payouts, and so on. But in this other "vital," the emphasis is on prayer, and specifically on praying for peace as part of a worldwide observance.
Maybe, if we were looking at our "VI-tal" thing more from the "VEE-tal" perspective, we'd see that numbers alone don't generate life. They only reflect it. The key isn't to focus on the numbers, but on the depths of following Jesus that draw people to a Christlike way of life.
Like praying -- and then working -- for peace.