Updated: Jul 25, 2022
From July 4-9 I was in Sherwood Park, AB for The Alliance General Assembly. What is General Assembly? It’s a National gathering of members of the Alliance in Canada. It's a bit like an Annual General meeting of any charitable organization (but way better than most AGMs!) There was plenty of business to discuss and reports to hear about from committees - my favourites were the reports from the committee on committees and the ‘secret’ committee on Theological Refection (someone tell me how I can join this committee please) we follow Robert’s Rules of Order, use a fancy voting app - the whole shebang. However, there was a lot more to Assembly than just business. It's an opportunity to be reminded of who we are and what our purpose is, as a denomination and as people stumbling our way through life following Jesus.
On Monday I had the opportunity to join New Venture leaders and Apprentices from across the country, hearing about the new and creative ways they are spreading the Gospel, in the near and far. I love to hear about what they’re doing but it was so good to sit in a room full - I’m sure there were over 100 people, who are inspired. It’s really hard to pick a favourite but the stories I find myself telling others about the most came from North Western Ontario and Eastern Manitoba, and BC, and definitely the GTA in Ontario, oh and Quebec! I can’t pick one. Nathan Weselake, Howard Jolly, Milissa Ewing, Andy Lambkin, Dr. Kenzo, Dominique Ruso and Santiago Benavides are just a few names of leaders we heard from in powerful ways and have certainly left an indelible mark on my journey.
There were beautiful times of worship and prayer throughout the week - something I was especially looking forward to. I was able to meet with friends I literally haven’t seen in person for years and meet new friends I have only ever met on Zoom. There are so many other things I could tell you about. I anticipate I’ll be reflecting on that week for some time. There was another point in the week that stuck with me. On the last day, there was a healing service. We were asked to spend some time praying for each other after a time of reflection. There were a few thoughts going through my mind, one being I don’t really have anything that needs to be healed. I’m not sick or in pain or anything like that. Having said that, I did have an interesting experience of healing during the week leading up to this service.
It was only three years ago that Mike and I traveled to Be Brave Ranch in Sherwood Park where we began taking steps toward this dream. As I drove around Sherwood Park and Edmonton, I was remembering some random, inconsequential things from that trip and it struck me as a healing experience. So many people I talk to agree the last two years are a blur - like a gap in time or something. A loss that can’t quite be explained, or that I’m really aware I’ve experienced. As I remembered some of these random things, it felt like I had regained a part of myself, as though a neuro-pathway in my brain had been restored. I definitely felt a shift in my mind.
As I sat in the service reflecting on these things, thoughts of my home church, Vox Alliance, were coming to mind. The different relationships there I have grieved and forgave and in many ways am renewing but these are things that have been healed, I thought. I dismissed it, again, as simply random thinking.
We had an opportunity as a small group to pray for a young man with back pain. He and I share the same tattoo. It’s a tattoo of a semicolon. The semicolon tattoo is a message of affirmation and solidarity against suicide, depression, addiction, and other mental health issues. In writing, the semicolon is used when an author could've chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. In this case, the sentence is someone’s life.
Even though we were praying for him, there was something about the tattoo that was speaking differently to me. When we were finished praying, I said, “I miss church.” At first I thought I was just making a statement. I do miss church. My church-going has been pretty sporadic since the summer of 2019 - one of the hazards of bi-vocational ministry, transitioning into a new ministry, and then the big one, a global pandemic.
I think God was trying to say to me that He, the author and perfecter of my faith journey, put a semicolon on church community where I thought there was a period.
That was the healing word I didn’t know I needed. I needed to be reminded about my (our) inherent need for community, to be reminded of who I am and where I came from. I need healing for the community I once had and loved and am distanced from. I needed a fresh perspective on the value of community and did God ever give me one at Assembly. Remember.
Do you need reminding?
Remember Who loves you. Remember what matters. Remember what is right and what is wrong. Stay faithful. Remember.