A new church year is dawning my friends and so September 9th marks it’s kick off and the celebration of the church structure. At that service we want to hold up each Unit and what they do as part of the whole governance structure. If we used a metaphor of being on a journey, the Units, their teams and the Council are like the car that we travel in together. The Holy Currencies program is the road we travel and our mission is where we are going. Over the last year that Ellen and I have been here we have talked about the governance structure and Holy Currencies, but there has been less talk about the mission or destination. Often churches have these long mission statements which say everything and nothing about who a congregation is and where they want to go on a shared faith journey. I believe we need to be clear about our mission and I don’t think we need endless questionnaires or focus group to discern it.
I believe we only need to look at what ‘we’ as a community of faith are already doing. A Jesus says, “Where your heart is, that is where your treasure can be found.”
As I take in all of last year, I want to name to the congregation what I believe is the heart, the treasure of Forest Hill United Church. It is in Outreach, Unity of Community and in Transformation of the self and our society. I would like to challenge the congregation and the Units to think about if what Ellen and I have seen is what you also perceive? Are there other elements that seem important to Forest Hill that we have missed? Or could it really be that simple that our mission at Forest Hill is to aid: in personal and societal transformation; Increasing a sense of belonging or unity within community and outreach to those in our society who need help?
I like stories to help us understand big or difficult subjects so here are a couple of stories about how Holy Currencies work in helping us reach our mission. There are so many places where the Currency of Truth plays a vital role in moving us forward in transformation. For example hearing truth about why there is so much pain and addiction within First Nations peoples is hard because it puts heroes like John A. MacDonald in a bad light. We see flaws in his (and other leaders of the time) aspirations to “kill the Indian in the native.” This truth about them forces us to ask what biases do we carry, unquestioningly, within us? What role do we play in the continued victimization of First Nations people? Truth is essential in the process of transformation.
How about the Currency of Relationship particularly when it comes to building community. Certainly we want to build community within the congregation but that is pretty low hanging fruit. For the most part we at Forest Hill look alike, dress alike, have the same mother tongue and church experience.
The Currency of Relationship challenges us to expand our circle of care, respect and dignity. This September 25th, Forest Hill will be hosting Waterloo Presbytery. Let this be your first invitation to offer to make a pot of soup or chilli to help feed our guests. Now we could have asked you, the congregation, to offer bread as well BUT if you remember from the service and potluck we had with the Tigran Faith Mission Church they make some pretty amazing bread. So we asked them if they would supply bread for the meal. They very happily said, “yes.” This offered them dignity and an appreciation for what they can offer. It introduces them to the wider church and it gives them a chance to support the ministry of Forest Hill. It also draws us all into community where we feel supported and appreciated for the gifts we have to offer. This is the kind of community the church is called to be.
And lastly, there are just so many stories of how outreach has transformed all those involved. Whether it is the gracious leadership of Linda Davis, Sue Hummel, and Shelley Steele (and their partners) or the work of Donna and Dennis Dechert or Chris Robinson in the Be In Community Unit. Every time people have said yes to helping in events where they actually meet new people, they have been changed/transformed. It happens at the Food Bank or Christmas Supper or Strawberry Social at Chandler-Mowat. It happens at the Food Trucks and it happens whenever two or three are gathered in Christ’s name. It has involved risk of getting out of our comfort zones and sometimes digging in garbage (spiritual or literal) and it has meant that our world and our place in it changed. This, too, is what the church is called to be. A place where the transformative power of Christ comes to us in the most humble of means.
So as the fall comes, look for a clearer focus of our church mission and an invitation for you to be part of it.
Peace Rev. Gary