As a church leader, I often find myself being quoted. But it is important to acknowledge that my words are often inspired by what I have heard others say. Conversations are always a gift. Sharing perspectives and insights are acts of generosity; we are richer because of it.
I was reminded of this again when I was asked to serve as a Commissioner at the Saskatchewan Citizens’ Hearing on Climate Change in November, 2013. After hearing twenty hours of presentations, I felt very enriched. Each presenter brought a unique perspective out of a common concern. The environment has become unstable. The earth needs to be defended. Our children need proactive leadership to protect their future. Our standard of life should not sacrifice their quality of life.
Citizens had organized and offered practical insights. All requested concrete action from their leaders. The final report was released in April and deserves attention.
The Saskatchewan Citizens’ Hearing reminded me of the church. Gathered discernment is a clear Anabaptist value. Early Anabaptists believed there is a special manifestation of the Sprit of Christ when the people of God gather in worship and discernment. They took Matthew 18:20 seriously: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
As a community of Anabaptist/Mennonite congregations in the 21st century, we still take this verse seriously. Although there are many ways to hear God’s voice, scripture reminds me that God often speaks through people.
As the church in cities, towns, and counties across provinces, we have been discerning together. The Being a Faithful Church process and the Future Directions Task Force both function with the belief that when the People of God gather in worship and discernment, God will be in their midst and from within the prayerful conversations together will speak.
It is an exciting process. It requires faith and trust that God will flow through the gathered community. When the Spirit of God stirs our hearts, the voice of elder wisdom and youthful ideal blend together in a rich expression of worship. We discern together because we love God together. We love God together because it is in one another where we see and experience our Risen Lord.
That is why I am excited about our Assembly this summer in Winnipeg, July 3-6. I have enjoyed the worship of many of our congregations since serving as Executive Director of Mennonite Church Canada. The variety of expression, the diversity of gifts, and the multiplicity of expressed passion reflects the joy of unity: a unity of love for God in multiple fashions. It is clear evidence that God is alive and the Spirit of God is active.
So when such richness is experienced from visiting individual congregations, imagine the opulent worship and passion that will be experienced when these congregations gather together. When the People of God gather, especially in times of uncertainty and change, it is a concrete reminder that we are not alone. People of God desire to bring out the best in one another. We are reminded of God’s presence in every handshake, every smile, every hug, and especially in every song we sing together.
I can hardly wait to hear the people speak, for then I will hear the voice of God.
Please bring your voice to the table by registering for Assembly 2014 – Wild Hope: Faith for an Unknown Season.