Reflection: July 1

Published on Jul 4th, 2018 by Webminister | 0

         At BC Conference a month ago, I was asked on more than one occasion, “How long have you been in Nelson, now?”  I’d answer, “23 years.”  For some, that would prompt a conversation, and for others, they’d walk away shaking their heads.  One conversation I had was with Bruce Comrie, who’s the lead minister at Kamloops United Church.  He’s been in Kamloops for quite a while but we first met while at Vancouver School of Theology; he was a couple of years ahead of me.  We both agreed that if you’re doing long-term ministry, that is, more than 10 years, you and the congregation need to re-invent yourselves at least a couple of times.

         That’s what we’ve been about these past 23 years, reinvention… reimagination… renewal… revitalization.  I can think of 4 major reinventions: that’s one almost every five years.  The first was a double reinvention; we built the back office and meeting space and when it was finished, Christine joined us in team ministry; that was the year 2000.  In 2005, I went on sabbatical for the first time after we passed a congregational policy that went on to become a national policy.  With Christine here, we realized, as Barbara Langton of Kootenay Presbytery Mutual Ministry, would say, “We had all the resources in our congregation that we needed.”  The next major reinvention came that was a triple-whammy.  This was 2010: I took leave to deal with depression, Christine was called to Kimberley United in 2011, and we created a new governance structure… a church board to replace the larger council and a more fluid and active ministry team structure.  One of the key decisions of the new church board, and all of us, was to become an Affirming Congregation, and a second was to start a new youth and young family ministry staffed by Robin.  We are currently in the midst of the 4thmajor reinvention as we embark on a new journey with the Food Cupboard and other possibilities with respect to our church.

         Whew!  Let’s stop right there!  Let’s say thank you to God and to one another for the courage to make these changes!

         I’d say we’re living proof of Paul’s very first line in today’s reading from 2 Corinthians; he was inviting the Corinthian church to reinvent itself as a living body of gratitude and grace: “Just as you are rich in every respect, in faith and discourse, in knowledge, in total concern, and in the love we inspired in you, you may also abound in this work of grace.”  I’m grateful to be here with you in these reinventions in grace and love.

         While I was away, one of the weeks was study leave; I decided to spread it out over the 3 weeks I was away.  I did an online course through Brother David Steindl-Rast’s organization, Gratefulness.org. The co-leader along with Brother David was Lynne Twist, who’s an American philanthropist and stewardship consultant.  She started an organization called the Pachamama Alliance, an alliance that began with Amazon indigenous people.  She’s also the founder of the Soul of Money Institute.  One of the things she said in the course was, “You know, the word wealth, the source of it comes from well-being, and the well of being in everybody’s life is infinite. There IS a well of being. And when we draw on that rather than trying to garner more of what we don’t really need, we’re in touch with how grateful we are.”[1]  The eCourse was The Transformative Power of Gratefulness and Sufficiency.

         Brother David also highlighted his focus on gratefulness with 3 words: STOP/LOOK/GO.  In our fast-paced world, we need to STOP; we need to come to a halt from time to time to, as the African proverb says, “let our souls catch up to our bodies.”  And when we’ve stopped, we need to LOOK to see the opportunities around us and to appreciate the world in which we live.  But then we have to GO—albeit more slowly; we have to act upon the possibilities we’ve found.

         As Paul implied and as Jesus embodied, we are invited by our gratitude to live more fully in hope.  Hope transcends our fears and our mania to acquire more.  Hope roots us in something beyond ourselves that heals and is transformative.  Brother David framed it this way, “Hope… is openness for surprise, for the unimaginable, for that mystery with which we are surrounded, within which we live and move and have our being.”[2]

         So, for the next little while as we face more changes, let us live in the grace of hope… that deep mystery that holds us and lives within us through gratitude and love.  Let us live in hope for the next few years of our life together.  Let us live in a hope that transcends our fear and that leads us to GO with love and compassion into the world as creatures made new in God’s Spirit.

         Congratulations on 23 years together; let’s together look to the next few years with excitement and hope. AMEN.

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[1]  Gratefulness.org eCourse, “The Transformative Power of Gratefulness and Sufficiency.”

[2]  Ibid.

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