I want to recap a very significant shift in how we resource, connect, and communicate with each other as churches. Historically, we have since the 1960’s (some of you will remember this from personal experience, some of you will remember it from previous newsletters), which shifted the way we work together from associations to regions. Many of you will have also experienced that this regionalism has caused many of us to lose a sense of extended community, prayer and encouragement with those churches that are near by. The intention over time is to remedy that dilemma; there is an important aspect to regional identity, and there is an essential piece that belongs to a much smaller, geographically closer group of churches. Most of us are far too busy to even think that this would be possible or even useful. The idea that God loves me and someone else has a better plan for my life than I do not only doesn’t seem to take into account how busy I really am, but is almost offensive because it feels like no one really cares how I am anyway. I’ve been emphasizing for the last few months the need to find clear and better ways of encouraging each other. Contemporary media of the kinds we are all becoming used to (or fearful of) don’t help us connect – they often just give us information. As one woman in her 70’s in Winnipeg commented just a couple of months ago, “I remember when” (please be patient here…when people begin a phrase like “I remember”, it is so worth listening to…) “we used to gather together annually then nationally, triennially”…and here is the kicker of what she said… “it is fine to communicate…we get lots of material now…we just don’t get to meet anyone…and I miss that.” What I’ve just said is a paraphrase, but you can take those words to the bank, and I continue to take those words to my heart. Many of us, as an Anglican priest friend of mine once said, “gather together to worship apart” (that happens at biannual gatherings and annual retreats…it can even happen at the well-meaning and often poorly attended ministerial gatherings.) We often miss out given our busyness in ways that we could encourage, enrich and be with others. We often forget that if I am not particularly needy in this season of my life it does not mean that someone else could not benefit from what God has so graciously given me and the community of faith that I am a part of.
As you know, we have been meeting in Winnipeg for almost a year, we had a strong engagement in Calgary and are discerning whether Edmonton is a possibility. This Thursday night we have invited the 32 churches and congregations of the Lower Mainland to gather for an evening of worship, food, resourcing, and discernment as to our common needs. So far, 2/3 of those churches are coming and over 70 individuals. We will have a table hosted by David Holten where those who are treasurers and administrators can join for discussion about some common needs. We will have another table for those who are moderators, elders, deacons, chairs…etc. There will be other folk who have not seen each other for a long time who will meet and begin to build relationships for the first time. Earlier this year the Vancouver Foundation spoke of the profound sense of loneliness that hundreds of thousands of Lower Mainland folk were feeling. That is true of the general population, and it is also true of many of us in churches who can feel lonely or isolated in our work in the midst of hugely challenging times. Those who are coming Thursday are giving up important personal time to be a part of an evening. We will respect that time by making sure that we begin at 6pm sharp, and end at 8:30 promptly. There will be those there who have plenty of relationships and resources in their lives, those who have one or the other, and those who have neither. All will have something to give or receive. I’d ask you to pray that the evening will be meaningful to those who attend, an encouragement, a challenge and an enrichment to the congregations they represent and that we might collectively begin to see God’s larger work well beyond the borders of our own churches.