I wrote this earlier when on a plane to Toronto where I am now attending a week of meetings with my colleagues, followed by some time with the General Council Executive. I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity to come together, to share best practices, and to see one another face to face. I have still only met some of my colleagues on the squares on my computer screen. And while it feels like we know each other, there is something different about that in person interaction that has been so elusive during these COVID times.
As a child, I loved to hear the stories from the community in which I grew up. I would often ask Mom to tell and re-tell the same story. One story I remember is about a young child: One evening, their parents were putting them to bed. Like many small children, they didn’t want to go and was doing everything in their power to avoid it. ‘I want a drink of water’, ‘I forgot to go to the bathroom’. You know the routine. Their parents calmly insisted that it was bedtime, but eventually one of them, probably out of shear frustration, sat down on the edge of the child’s bed and told them that it was REALLY time to go to sleep. The child complained that they were afraid and didn’t want to be left alone. The parent told the child that they weren’t alone, they need not be afraid because God was with them. This seemed to give the child some comfort and the parent went back downstairs. Some time passed. The parents were settling in to read a book or watch TV, congratulating themselves on their skilled parenting, comforted with the knowledge that they would finally have some time to themselves – when they heard the patter of their child’s feet on the stairs. A little face came around the corner, and the child softly said: “Can I have God with skin on? I think that during these times of separation, we too are looking for God ‘with skin on’.
As we plan our ministry lives together this Fall, it is a struggle to find the appropriate balance of safety, and to respond to the need to be in community with one another. We wonder about the best way to gather safely, mask or not mask, test or not test, to isolate or not. With the pandemic landscape constantly changing, we are still adapting and finding new ways to be together – and, I’m sure that this means that life is busy for all of you. While it creates excitement, there is a weariness that comes from having lived through these past couple of years. I encourage you to be gentle with yourselves and one other, that we might experience the presence of the holy in our experiences of one another.
As September reaches mid-stride, I want to ensure that you are aware of some of the great things that are happening at the Region.
First of all, LeaderSHIFT has been working hard to provide some amazing opportunities for you.
- For a couple more days, clergy can still register for the Total Clergy Wellbeing retreat. I attended this event in Minneapolis a few years ago, and again when as a LeaderShift event, and I am so excited that this opportunity is once again available to you. It is an excellent piece of Continuing Education. If you are feeling weary, it’s a great opportunity to help you establish some new and healthy ways of being in ministry. You may feel like you can’t possibly take the time, but you will not regret a decision to attend this event.
- I also highly recommend the Bold Witness, Relentless Grace conference that is happening in November, in our sibling-region, at Symons Valley United in Chinook Winds. Three days with Sarah Bessey will be inspiring and is not to be missed. Attend in person if you can (I’ll be there!) and maybe add a day or two before or after to visit the area – or if travel is too much, those outside of Southern Alberta area can join in a remote hub that are being organized in locations around our region, as well in our cousin-regions north and east of Chinook Winds region!
Other happenings in the Region:
- Camp Spirit had a successful summer program, holding day camp programs across the Region in 31 locations, and welcoming 632 children and youth. Camp Spirit programming is offered by a team of young adult staff, youth volunteers and leaders-in-training, supported by our Region’s robust leadership development initiatives.
- First Third Ministry is offering their first in-person youth conferences in 3 years called YouthTREK. As a shared ministry between Pacific Mountain and Chinook Winds regions, there is one YouthTREK in Kamloops BC and one YouthTREK in Waterton AB. First Third Ministry, also have a number of Young Adult offerings this, including a retreat for Young Adults in Naramata called Holy Listening. Please share these events in your communities.
- Campus Ministry is active and growing across the Region, now serving 5 post-secondary schools with a team of Campus Ministers and Community connectors (students who work on campus to support programming)
- We’ve begun planning for our 2023 Annual General Meeting which will be held June 1-4, 2023, and we are currently seeking a meeting location. If you’re interested in assisting with the planning teams for the general meeting, please let me know!
- Our Regional Council Executive will be meeting in Whitehorse this October. We’re being graciously and generously hosted by Whitehorse United’s community of faith, and we look forward to learning all about them as a United Church, their ministries, neighbourhood, and the particular challenges that face ministry in the north.
- Pacific Mountain Indigenous Ministry Council will be meeting in Prince Rupert in October as well. This will be an important gathering as we think about how we can live out our commitments to reconciliation here in BC.
- I will be on sabbatical from January – March 2023; Our skilled team of Regional Ministers will provide coverage during these months.
- We will host Town Halls on the first Wednesday of the Month, watch the newsletters for details or check the Region’s online calendar.
Our Regional Minister Staff team and I will be meeting in person to spend some time looking at how to support small and rural Communities of Faith. A proposal that was passed this summer at General Council is allowing some experimenting and piloting of new models for governance that we hope will allow greater flexibility and dreaming for ministry and ministry partnerships.
There are still so many things to highlight, but too many for here in this note, so please subscribe to our newsletter, and watch our website so that you can be informed about the ways in which God is at work (with or without skin) here in the Region.