This Week at Trinity, Beamsville
Friday, February 12, 2021
This week I had the chance to be in a meeting with 85 other United Church folks from across the country. I am sure that doesn’t sound very personal, at all, but somehow by the end, I felt a sense of connection with some of those colleagues, spread far and wide. That surprised me. So did one of the questions a colleague posed, close to the end of the session.
The session was technically a course: a refresher course for those who carry credentials as Educational Supervisor for UCC student ministry. Much as l love this privilege to contribute to the larger church, I must say lots of the session was as dry as expected. Mostly, we followed slides of material on what has changed administratively in the last few years especially. Commence yawning? Yes; but it’s part of the process, and, thankfully, eventually, there were opportunities for break-out rooms, and face-to-face conversation, so to speak. Ours was a little group of three. Pre-assigned, I have no idea how they grouped us, but there I was meeting a colleague from Edmonton and another from the Bruce Peninsula. From my place in the relatively balmy life of the Niagara Peninsula, we are so different geographically. The same is true of our ministries.
It was close to the end of our second break-out conversation, and we had checked the box on the assigned questions. Chatting flowed, and then Tom said there’s something he’s been wondering about, often, with his present student. He asked me, and Bruce, if we notice generational shifts in the ethos of ministry; in the perceptions and practices of what it means to lead in the church. Commence silence, and thinking.
The first thing I said, eventually, was a firm maybe. I think about it sometimes, and need to some more, I said, but I’m sure it must be present, as ‘church’ evolves. I talked about how the student I had supervised for three years, and the students who served in our congregation simultaneously, were definitely a different, younger generation than I, but I didn’t notice glaring gaps in ministerial identity. Maybe that’s also a reflection of their collective maturity and readiness for ministry. Maybe it’s also a truth that we just have to give time and space, for growing into the perceived gaps; for letting time and experience expand and refine, challenge and affirm, the seeds that God has planted in us from the beginning. At least, I think that’s what I said in reply.
So, fast forward a few days and here we are at our annual attempt to understand Transfiguration Sunday. The fact that we capitalize the day tells us how much we want it to matter, even as we struggle endlessly to understand that mountaintop moment with Jesus. There will always be gaps, and trepidation, when it comes to my explication of what happened there. Most times, I feel remarkably like Peter, a bit dazed and confused, wondering what to say about that moment that makes sense.
This year, I’m working hard to take hold of the perspective that this moment can offer. I’m accepting Jesus’ invitation to come in closer, to stand beside him, as he steadies my stance, and then really take it all in, across the landscape of life. It’s not easy, to remember the valleys, and to see the terrain still to travel, but without that intentional reflection, I would be far less prepared for where God still needs me to go. Silence and thinking are essential. So, too are the next steps, in our individual and collective development.
At any time, but especially now, we are blessed to be a church with all generations and climes of perspective. We are blessed to be a congregation that can say the same. We thrive together. We really do. All the more reason to keep moving forward together, in all that we’ve still to learn, and do.
With love to you all,
“Sankofa: it is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.”
(Rev. Dr. Paul Douglas Walfall, Fort Saskatchewan Pastoral Charge)
p.s. extra points to anyone who can say what last week’s typo was. Did your watchful eyes catch the one I just found? Let’s call it sabbatical brain. ?