May 10, 2019
I admit I have been both delinquent and tardy in my postings. This week my offering is a mash-up of two weeks (or 3?!) worth of thoughts and experiences and reflections. Thank you for reading – I hope it spurs your own thoughts, experiences, and reflections on all the ways God is present to you, and all the ways you can live in gratitude.
At the end of April I traveled to Seattle (in a car! By myself!) to attend the Inhabit Conference at the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, put on by Parish Collective. This two-day gathering brings together “hundreds of practitioners, pastors, social entrepreneurs, church planters, community leaders, environmentalists, denominational executives, publishers, professors, urban planners, and artists from all over the globe…to connect, collaborate, and celebrate the good work being done in thousands of neighborhoods and parishes (and) share a common vision for seeing the transformation of the church through participation in the neighborhood.” The conference is “intentionally designed to engage, encourage, and empower innovative, missional practitioners as they go about practicing the way of Jesus in place.”
I attended last year and was totally inspired but completely overwhelmed – like trying to take a sip of water from a fire hose. This year, thanks to the LeaderShift Initiative of the Pacific Mountain Region of the United Church of Canada, I was able to meet ahead of time with other folks who are trying out new ways of being/doing church in the neighbourhood (like we are at Weird Church) to build relationships and make plans for our time together in Seattle. With focus and friends, I was able to experience the conference in a different way – with loads more side conversations about what is working and what isn’t, better note taking and debriefing after workshops, and a sense of curiosity and intentionality.
One of the best parts of this conference is that it is a middle meeting point for folks who love Jesus from so many different denominations and expressions of church who may not share exact theology or music or even language, but who are excited about what the Spirit is up to in the neighbourhood. One of the highlights for me was worship. A small town farmer on an acoustic guitar alongside a DJ on turn-tables, accompanied by keyboard, drums, more guitars and basses. Beautiful singers collaborating with a rapping Pastor from inner-city Chicago. It felt like John of Patmos’ Revelation come to life where people from all nations in many languages were celebrating the presence of God together (Rev. 7:9).
Just a few short days after my return from Inhabit, Weird Church hosted it’s first Friday Feast: a place of community gathering and mutual nourishment. The theme of the evening was “I Wasn’t Buried, I was Planted: Stories of Letting Go and Beginning Again.” We were gifted with the music leadership of Linda and Gayle, humbled by the beautiful and vulnerable sharing of my friend Sandy, and filled up in our bellies with delicious eats from Biblio Taco. Folks who gathered shared stories over food with their neighbours, drew pictures on the paper covered tables, listened to reflections and poetry, and got to venture through a Friday night unlike most other Friday nights, together. It really was a spiritually grounded community meal in such a wonderful and messy way. The next Friday Feast is on the schedule for June 14 and the topic will be “The Blues.” Music will be offered by Chad and Larry: Acoustic Blues Duo and we will explore the topic of “The Blues” as it pertains to our physical, emotion, and spiritual well-being. I would invite you to come, and bring a friend – just please register ahead of time! Friday Feast is by donation, but we want to make sure we have enough food to go around. https://www.weirdchurchcumberland.com/events
I suppose my TGIF for this week is all about community. I am Thinking so much about what it means to be community in a time and place of rapid change and movement. Cumberland is now officially the fastest growing neighbourhood in BC and I believe that in order to keep the integrity of a small community we need to be intentional about the way we engage and use our spaces and how we interact with those around us. (want to talk more about this? Join us for Coffee and Conversations that Matter at Cumberland United Church Tuesday May 21 at 10am or 6:30pm).
Heading into the Victoria Day long weekend, I am Grateful for the opportunity to gather in community and celebrate life. Check out all that is going on in the Village here: https://cumberland.ca/events/
My Inspiration this week also comes from community: all the folks who care so much about togetherness, wellness, hope, love…who give of their volunteer time and their resources to ensure we have a sense of belonging and connectedness. This is the real stuff of life.
Community is also how I practice my Faith. It might be simple to be spiritual on my own – but that is not where I grow, that is not where I experience the fullness of the Love of God. I can only do that when I am with others: those who challenge me, teach me, lift me, argue with me (!), and tenderly hold my vulnerability. Community is where I learned how to follow Jesus, where I learned how to be a woman of integrity, how to be a wife, a friend, a mother, a pastor, and a mean pie maker. Community is where I learned how to live and love alongside others with very divergent ideas of life than mine.
Let’s give thanks for real-life, messy, wild, often uncomfortable, rewarding, uplifting community.
Check out some video from the Inhabit Conference here: https://www.facebook.com/inhabitconference/videos/544287852763352/
And here (this is a revised version of Everlasting Arms):