Here it is Monday, the day after the Hamilton Conference weekend that Rev Gary, Diane Dunseith, one of Forest Hill’s Presbytery representatives and I attended over the last 3 days. I had promised Tanya that I would have this article ready for her by the time she came in this morning, but alas I had to ask for forgiveness! Suffice it to say it was a full and rich time and, I am sure I can say with some agreement, we were all pretty knackered by the time we arrived back last night!!!
I have to say it was a wonderful conference from my little peephole. This year’s theme “The Changing Seasons“ based on Ecclesiastes 3 “For everything there is a season” was so well integrated throughout all the discussions, the small table conversations, the presentations, the reflections, and worship.
Needless to say Rev Gary was in his element with the youth and the wonderful energy they added to the court!!!! Those young people are so coming into who they have been created to be…their prayers and reflection offerings gave me goosebumps as I experienced on how they are becoming important change agents in this changing season of our church.
For me, personally, it was great to reconnect with many of the ministry folks that I have shared and crossed paths with over the years; taking the time to share a meal with my diaconal sisters and brothers and to make some new relational connections. As the 2 new candidates addressed the court, I found myself reliving my own commissioning 4 years ago and how the seasons of my life have changed in those years.
But this year’s conference was also special and different because it is probably the last time that our presbyteries and Hamilton Conference itself will meet in it’s present form.
The church has asked and most Pastoral Charges, Presbyteries and Conferences have voted to change to a new 3 court system at General Council this summer. About half of Hamilton Conference (Kitchener Waterloo included) will join with others like Huron-Perth presbytery, where Gary was in ministry, into what will be known as Region 8.
The conference invited both a time of lament of what is being let go of as Hamilton Conference and a time of celebration of who we have been and who we, as a church in this time, are being into! There was a lot of “raising the glass” before we had a wonderful meal together as we closed the conference.
If I have even 1 “ahh” take-away from a conference I am a happy camper and this weekend came through!
During a 2 minute theological reflection exercise we were to consider whether we were a gathering congregation or a scattering congregation.
My immediate response was that Forest Hill is a scattering church with its many ways of reaching out to others within our congregation, in our relationships with those sharing our church space, and in our community. I see a lot of scattering of hospitality. Earlier this morning, I came back to the concept of scattering or gathering and I decided that in many ways we are also a gathering congregation. In my time here I have seen so many gatherings of different groups and I can’t help but acknowledge how many have gathered around the food trucks and the classes offered. Which speaks to how you see yourself and our faith community? Are you more comfortable as a scatterer or a gatherer? Could you consider your gifts with more courage to risk stepping out of your comfort zone to do something different?
Which leads me to the conclusion that it is not an issue of either/ or but …both / and. A perfect example, in my mind, is the pastoral team here at Forest Hill. We recently gathered to check in about our visiting and to look for areas where we might scatter more in our visiting and holding others in prayer.
As ministers, Gary and I depend on the community to let us know of any concerns about those in our faith community. Your eyes and ears and compassionate caring are well appreciated. Because there are so many interconnecting relationships in this growing congregation, we are not always aware of someone in need. So thank you for keeping us in the pastoral concern loop. It is helpful in becoming aware when a friendly telephone call or visit could be helpful. Both Gary and I are all too willing to offer prayers on a Sunday for people both within our church and beyond the walls. However it is important to be aware that we can offer general prayers without naming the person(s) or… with permission we can name the individual. We will be placing the prayer box in a more visible place very shortly and everyone is invited to place a prayer request in it. Prayers of gratitude and celebrations are also welcome. Please be assured that each week a prayer will be offered on behalf of the prayers placed in the prayer box.
With blessings for gathering and scattering within the changing seasons of all life,