Our Vision

Over the past several months, we have been “trying on” our new vision statement. Presently it reads,

We envision our church community as vibrant and bold, embodying the reconciling Way of Jesus.

A small group of us reviewed survey responses, kept our stated values close, and put pen to paper to capture the essence of who we are now and how we imagine ourselves in the future. A vision is an ambitious — but realistic — declaration of where we want to find ourselves at some point in the not-too-distant future but can’t really say about ourselves now.

Where does the statement come from? Following are some reflections.

Vibrant: we see our church community as full of life, and preparing for new life. Our congregation is ageing — and that’s totally fine! — age doesn’t need to bear any relevance on vibrance. We do also see a greater diversity of ages in the future. Most important, we see our church community as a refreshing source of life, and where all of our activities are life-giving.

Bold: we have a history of standing up for a fairer world, and for taking on important issues. We want to continue that. If we have been timid with some issues in the past, we see ourselves taking these on boldly in the future.

Embodying: a church (derived from the Greek, “ecclesia”) is a gathered group of people. A church is a body. Specifically, the church is the body of Christ — a group of people where the Christ energy is present and flowing freely. Christians say that the church is the hands and feet of Christ, doing the tasks Jesus can no longer do after he ascended.

Reconciling: to reconcile is to come together again. It denotes repairing relationships, either on an individual level or on a collective level. The word is commonly used for indigenous-settler relations, and that is some of our intent. But reconciliation is scalable: between two people, between a person and God, between a group and God, or between two or more groups. Christianity is about reconciling our past, to live into a future where we are free to love and be loved.

Way of Jesus: the early Christians referred to themselves as “Followers of the Way.” They didn’t see Jesus as a founder of a new religion; they saw his as the founder of a new way of being. This movement was part of, and also separate from, mainstream Judaism. It includes religious practices and it seems to have included individual discipleship and contemplative practice. It is a way of nonviolence — resisting injustice with love before might.

Soon we’ll decide whether to adopt this vision as our new way of being.

Peace

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Peace is the theme for Advent this week.

When I was studying at the University of Waterloo, the neighbouring college — Conrad Grebel College — offered a Peace and Conflict Studies program. The courses always appealed to me, but I only took one during my time there. I recall walking down the hall past a lecture and hearing, “Peace is more than the absence of conflict.” I wish I’d staying longer to hear a more complete definition of peace. Part of me wishes I had pursued a minor or certificate in peace and conflict studies in parallel to my engineering degree because the greatest challenges our world now faces may have little to do with engineering and everything to do with peace and conflict.

Some definitions of peace include quiet and tranquility. That resonates for me. But I can also imagine peace that is loud about boisterous: I’d venture to say our cities are, by and large, peaceful places — notwithstanding violent crime and domestic violence that we should eradicate. Crime rates fall, but hustle and bustle rises. Indeed, some of the most dangerous places on earth are actually quite quiet and tranquil: they have curfews imposed at nightfall, which is around 6pm in equatorial regions. Quiet and tranquil sometimes imply discord and violence.

We have a relative peace in Castlegar, where many feel safe to walk the streets at any hour. And yet many experience this otherwise quiet and tranquil place as violent and unsafe. Gender-based violence still exists. Bullying still exists. Child abuse still happens.

As we anticipate the coming Messiah — the Anointed One — we remember that the appearance of peace does necessarily not mean deep peace. But we remember the promise awaiting fulfilment. We hold steadfast to a vision of a peaceful world — where we can life free from fear, where the will to commit violence has melted away, where conflict is transformed to create space for new life. We have much work to do and by God’s active grace we can work together to make peace reality for all.

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