Facebook tells me that on this day, 6 years ago, I wrote the following:
“Highlight of the weekend: story-time with the Moderator (i.e. the head) of The United Church of Canada, The Right Rev. Gary Paterson. He read Scaredy Squirrel to us 😀”
For context, I had just driven home from the annual meeting of the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario – a gathering of delegates, both clergy and lay, representing United Church of Canada congregations all across Northwestern Ontario and Manitoba that was held that year in Beausejour, Manitoba. Over the course of the weekend we worshipped together, we heard presentations from our theme speaker, the Right Rev. Gary Paterson, and we went about the work of planning and celebrating the work of the church in our corner of the world – the work or mission of God, as carried out by the Body of Christ, the church.
At that time, I had been wrestling for several years with the sense that I might be called to ministry in the church. 5 months before, I had taken a break from “normal” life to move to a new town for a season, doing the same work but without the distractions of my usual commitments. Part of the reason for this decision was to have a period of time to discern whether or not God was calling me in this new direction in life.
Part way through the weekend, we were read the story Scaredy Squirrel.
If you aren’t familiar with the book, the message of the book is that life can be scary, and change can be scary, and it’s OK to be scared; but change can also be exciting and can breathe new life. It was in this moment that I found the courage to make the leap into the unknown, just as Scaredy Squirrel does. When I got home, I got in contact with my Minister and with the Board of my church and requested a Discernment Committee, the first step (at the time) towards ministry in the United Church of Canada.
On this day, one year ago, I was again at the annual meeting of the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario. It was the eve of my ordination. I had moved to Halifax and completed my Master of Divinity at the Atlantic School of Theology; I had moved to Chetwynd, in northeastern British Columbia, and completed an 8-month internship; and I had accepted a call to Two Rivers Pastoral Charge in southern New Brunswick. And I was about to be ordained as a minister in the United Church of Canada.
In our denomination, Ordination happened at the Annual Meeting of Conference – in my Conference, during the closing worship on Sunday morning. I spent the weekend in Winnipeg at the annual meeting, participating in the worship and work, and reconnecting with old friends. On Friday, the three of us to be ordained each had to address the gathering, speaking for 4-5 minutes about our ministry, and then the delegates at the meeting voted to ordain each of us.
During the closing worship, the three of us made our Ordination Vows, and then each of us knelt down as the church laid hands on us and conferred the Holy Spirit on us and on our ministry. It was a day filled with deep joy and awe and celebration and transformation.
This evening, as I write, I have just returned home from the first annual meeting of the Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Regional Council. On January 1, the United Church of Canada changed its structure. Conferences are no more, and have been replaced with Regions. Everything has changed, yet everything is the same.
It was a weekend of worshipping together, listening to our theme speakers, and going about the work of the church – working together as the Body of Christ so that God’s mission might be realized in our corner of the world.
And for now, ordination still happens at the closing worship of the Regions. This morning, I was present in worship as three of my friends (along with three others) were ordained as ministers in the United Church of Canada. The Holy Spirit was dancing in the arena this morning – it was a day (and weekend) filled with joy and awe and celebration and transformation. My eyes were leaky at several points over the weekend, and especially this morning.
The church is the Body of Christ. When we gather together and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us, then transformation happens. As followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and resurrected one, we know that resurrection is not only possible but happens. Even though our old and familiar structures are no more, new structures have arisen and continue to arise and the Body of Christ lives. The Holy Spirit is still breathing life into us. The lessons of Scaredy Squirrel still hold true!
How can we keep from singing?!