July 7, 2013  — Pentecost 7

Rev. David Boyd


Over the last couple of years I've spoken with colleagues that I haven't known well and some former Nelsonites. Often, if it is people I don't know well, they'll say something like, "You're still there! After all these years, you're still in Nelson."

"Yes," I respond, "I'm still here."

If you'd asked me 18 years ago how long I thought I'd stay, I couldn't have imagined that it would be 18 years. I would likely have said maybe 10 years. Things have changed from the old Methodist ideal of changing pastorates every 5 years. There are places where that still occurs, but in the United Church, longer pastorates are becoming the norm rather than the exception. After all, the former Moderator of our Church, Walter Farquharson, the hymn-writer among other things, stayed in his settlement charge his entire ministryÉ Saltcoats, SK! He tried many different things, like being a worker priest; he was Moderator for two years as it was then. And he has contributed so much to the Church.

What makes it hard to leave is both a personal question on my part and the unique nature of our congregation in this unique city. I can't imagine personally where else I'd like to live, and Janet concurs. But it is the nature of this vibrant church community, through which we continually seem to reinvent ourselves, and this wider community that is so unique and full of flavor! So, happy anniversary! 18 years!

The Alban Institute, a research body that helps congregations grown and adapt to changing circumstances, sends out a weekly reflection. This past week's reflection was on the nature of a congregation's sense of community. We've had some struggles in some regards over the years, but I think our strength is our sense of community. At least I hope it is! Cameron Harder, the author of the article, reminds us that our sense of community is built on the understanding of God the Trinity as a community.

This isn't a new idea; it has been around for centuries and more emphasized in the Eastern Church than in the West. It is the idea that the Creator God and the Christ and the Spirit are a community and model community for us all. One of my professors, Bill Crocket, preached a sermon on this very idea of the community of the Trinity being a model for the community in which we choose to participate.

The community of the Trinity is the idea that God creates in an intimate way. The beginning of John's Gospel, affirming the Christ as Logos, states that the Word was with God at the beginning of Creation. At the beginning of Genesis, we hear that God spoke and creation occurred; besides which, the Spirit was brooding over the waters of creation's birth. And in an ongoing way, as the Celtic Church has affirmed for centuries, God's Trinitarian nature is alive and well today in each of us and in the world in which we participate.

So, one mark of community is intimacy. And we are made in God's image. We are made to be intimate with each other. By being intimate, I mean being able to be open with one another, be vulnerable, that is, show our weaknesses and be humble with each other.

Another mark of community is the desire to be together. We do a lot of doing and that is important; we also, in the doing, discover the gift of being. There are others of us who are good at being and then get involved in doing. Being and doing are two sides of the same coin, but health communities are intentional about both. As doers we need to stretch on the being side and as beers, we need to stretch on the doing side. This, too, is modeled in the Trinitarian community of God.

Finally, the theological concept that has worked well is known as panentheism. Creation is in God. We are in God. But God is also in us. And within this "inness" is the idea that there is room. There is space to share our gifts and talents and our unique selves in community. So, a third mark of a healthy community is this idea of "inness." We are in each other and carry something of the other in our selves.

What we have been witnessing in Calgary, High River and other Alberta communities and other flood-affected places in BC. A Winnipeg man came out and pumped out people's basements for free. Another individual who'd grown up in Calgary and was living elsewhere returned to help. Neighbours helped neighbours. There have been lots of wonderful stories of people coming together as a community.

There has been some other reflection about the flooding in Alberta suggesting that there were studies to show, especially after the 2005 flood, that changes could mitigate future flooding. There is a belief on the part of some that we are a crisis-driven people, that our community mindedness only comes through after a crisis, and that we can change only after catastrophe hits. Some interpreters of the environmental crisis that we are facing state that we will only change when our lives are drastically impacted.

While I understand this idea that we are a crisis driven people before we change, I believe that we can change because we desire to be in healthy communities of love, mutuality and support. It is difficult to make major changes in our lives in isolation, but when we come together in community, we can make changes. We can share our struggles, our challenges, our hurts and our humanity in finding common ways to be healthier and work to make the planet healthier.

I have hope and believe in this community. We have made many changes over 18 years and the Trinity is reflected in our living. I hope it will continue to be so. May God the Triune One bless us in the days, months and years to come that we may reflect the divine community in how we live and do and be together.