So many good things…

Yesterday was a great day. One of those days when your heart is so full and your spirit so uplifted that you wonder if you might just break apart at the seams. I fell into my bed exhausted last night without enough energy to eek out a blog post, so I am doing what I have rarely done, and blogging in the morning rather than the evening. I will try to round up all that happened yesterday (and I already know I will fail to convey it properly!).

This year General Assembly took time to highlight some “good news” stories within the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Here is what I heard:

-congregations CAN change and grow and experience new life…often (sadly) this happens once the stench of death is in the nostrils of the congregants, once they are staring at their tombstones. With so many of our congregations in dire straights…maybe (just maybe!) we are on the door of a true revival in the PCC

-Ministers need to be healthy – emotionally, spiritually and physically. I know this, but my friend and colleague the Rev. Matthew Ruttan spoke boldly and honestly about his own time of failing health, his struggle and the steps he took to regain his health. He spoke about getting a counselor and a mentor, he told us that the provisions made for clergy to get counseling in our benefits package is not enough. It made my heart sing to see a colleague willing to make himself vulnerable at the front of the court, for the sake of bringing an important message to those who needed to hear it. He reminded us that our congregations cannot be healthy if our clergy are not healthy.

-small churches can make a big difference through strategic partnerships with community organizations. Lynn Donovan’s story of St. Andrew’s Picton’s “circle of friends” – a term used to describe the church’s relationship with artists, musicians, and organizations within Prince Edward County, who help the church make a difference to the community around them – was nothing short of inspiring.

-Kennon Callaghan has important things to say. His name came up in many of the good news stories. I would encourage churches to check him out and see if they might learn from him.

-good news is life-giving. Again, this is obvious…but also vitally important to remember. We are good at beating ourselves up. As a denomination we suffer from low self-esteem. But low self-esteem is not healthy. It is not life-giving. Negative talk becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We NEED to hear the good news. We NEED to share the ways that God is at work among us. We NEED it like we need water or air or the news of the Resurrection.

There is more that I could share, I’m sure. But in the interest of keeping this to a digestible length, I will share just one more thing. Our worship last night was beautiful. There was such diversity in that service – there was a rockin’ praise band, classical instruments, a mass Korean choir singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic in Korean, there was printed responsive liturgy, there were extemporaneous prayers. The word was passionately preached. There was silence. There were men’s voices and women’s voices.  There were lay leaders and ordained leaders. There were younger voices and older voices. And over all of it, was the unifying Spirit of the Almighty God. I wish I could have brought every Presbyterian into the room. It was easily one of the best services I have been at in my life.

I need to express my deep gratitude to God, who indeed made us one in worship last evening.

Longings…

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Currently I’m sitting in a gym in Scarborough at Seneca College. I am here for the 139th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. For the un-initiated, the General Assembly (I will refer to it as: GA, Assembly, #ga139) is the superior court of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The Assembly meets once a year (near or at the beginning of June) and consists of 1/3 of the ordained ministers in our church and an equalizing number of elders (lay leaders within the church). We meet to discern God’s will for our church and to rule on points of church governance. The Assembly meets in a different location every year (the last time I was at Assembly, it was in Sydney, Nova Scotia!).

Assembly can be mind-numbing and frustrating at times, but it can also be a place of hope for the future of our church, a place where we remember that we are in this together, a place where we can encourage each other in being the hands and feet of Jesus reaching out to a world in need.

One of things I have heard more than once in conversation so far in this Assembly, is the longing for our church to be healthy and vital. This makes me smile. Because I have heard so often the concerns and problems that we face. I have heard so often the fear and the frustration with our church. I have heard so often the difficulties and the lack of solutions.

To hear, instead, a longing for health and vitality is a very good thing. Two years ago I longed to be healthier, to be slimmer, to be stronger. And then I made some decisions about how I eat and what I do with my time. Today I am healthier, slimmer and stronger. This trend in my personal life will only continue.

As a church, as we long for health and vitality, we also have the ability to make some good decisions about how we do things. And if we follow through on those decisions, we will find ourselves healthier and more vital. I believe this is what God longs for, for us. I believe there is hope for our future. I believe that the honest, heart-felt longings that I am hearing expressed may be the powerful catalyst that this church needs to embrace a better future.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself
and God our Father,
who loved us and by his grace
gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope,
comfort you and strengthen you
in every good thing you do and say.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NLT