This Week at Trinity, Beamsville
Friday, February 4, 2022
This week has brought yet another word into my regular vocabulary. It’s a little something called ‘Whova’ – pronounced like the iconic brand of vacuum cleaner, but as though you’re from Boston. This is not a product plug so much as a note of gratitude, for the platform and the colleagues using it, to bring dozens and dozens of us together for a weeklong, online conference. In an age of overwhelming screen time, it surpassed expectations. Truly.
The conference was called ‘A Cup of Hope: Warmth for the Soul’ – with a subtitle just as long: ‘An Online Conference for United Church People’. You’ll note it wasn’t just a clergy-thing. It was entirely a UCC community-thing, drawing leaders like me and you, into a 5-day re-immersion in all that is going right and well. Mindful of hard realities, it was still focused on hopeful truths – about faith communities persisting, with joy. The presenters and topics were wide-ranging, but with a steady focus on thriving and flourishing. There was also a whole lot of talk about welcoming and embracing. The latter may seem like long-lost words in an era of online connection, but that in itself has magnified and microscoped best practices; in thinking deeply about how we welcome, and the lives we are prepared to embrace.
The beautiful irony is that, at first, I had a hard time feeling connected to this conference of folks, all interested in welcome and embrace. It wasn’t because they did anything wrong. It was just that, unlike most conferences I’ve attended over the years, in any format, initially I didn’t know another soul there. The vision of a clergy cluster in northern British Columbia, brought to life by the Pacific Mountain Regional Council, and then spread to include Chinook Winds, the conference’s invite to the balance of the country didn’t get much press. It grew beyond their dreams, and folks like me trickled in, to their delight. It also left me feeling a bit of a stranger. It wasn’t the easiest exercise, to enter breakout rooms each day, with fair certainty that I would be an unknown in their midst.
Turns out, they didn’t mind this visitor from Ontario. They welcomed me graciously, every time, and were curious about this context of ministry. They were also amused when I referred to the places I live and serve as “small communities”. We’re big city to much of the rest of Canada, in case you’ve forgotten. Cultural differences included, there was a weeklong process of integration and celebration. As Victoria Andrews reminded us in Thursday morning’s opening prayer, there is something particularly crucial now, about spaces where we can reweave what has felt like the unravelling of community.
And so it is that we will gather in again this Sunday, here from this place known as Trinity Beamsville, for a weaving together of our unique but interconnected lives. We may not have the clearest sense of those beside us in worship, but we can rest assured there is a shared need for belonging. Hosting or leading or quietly attending, there is, for all of us, a shared posture of seeking. Thank God, in the fullest sense of those two little words, that we can know ourselves welcomed, found, and cherished, forever.
With love to you all,
“Fellowship is a kind of belonging that isn’t based on status, achievement,
or gender, but instead is based on a deep belief that everyone matters,
everyone is welcome, and everyone is loved, no conditions, no exceptions.”
(Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking)
p.s. If you’d like to get a little flavour of what “A Cup of Hope” has been like this week, you can tune in to the concluding worship service, Sunday at 1pm EST, with Moderator Richard Bott preaching. I’ll be there, too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kixOHaDB540