Before I came to Forest Hill, I served most recently for almost 3 years as Director of Five Oaks Education and Retreat Centre, one of four Centres of the United Church of Canada, spread across the country. My responsibilities included administration, finance, staff and Board development and visioning. The nature and rhythm of my work there were quite different from those of congregational ministry. So as I contemplated returning to the pastorate, I felt that some continuing education might help me reconnect.
For a week in January, I attended “Epiphany Explorations”, an annual conference sponsored by First-Met United Church in Victoria. A Jewish storyteller and an Imam helped us to experience the richness that emerges from interfaith conversations, and a musician from world music. Shelagh Rogers witnessed to the stories heard by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Seminary Professors of History and of Homiletics challenged us to speak the Word afresh for our day and time.
The conference had two particular highlights for me. The first was to hear, once again, John Dominic Crossan. As he always does, Dom put Jesus in his context geographically and historically, which Dom calls the “matrix”. Then he applied those understandings to our theology of the crucifixion and the resurrection. You will hear that disseminating in sermons over the next few months I’m sure.
The post-conference workshop was also very exciting. Cameron Trimble’s topic was Effective Congregations in a Rapidly Changing Society. This included: creating a compelling vision, transformational worship, and effective communication. Speaking with an infectious enthusiasm, and at a rate of a mile a minute, she barely scratched the surface of her knowledge and experience. I was reminded of what I know and recovered my sense of urgency for what we’re about as church.
Epiphany Explorations was all I’d hoped for in re-engaging me in the opportunities, challenges, theology and complexity of congregational ministry. I look forward to sharing that with you!