Conversations that Matter

The pilgrimage to Corner Brook begins Monday, June 29, and then it’s 40 days and 40 nights of travelling time, until General Council 42 begins.

I would like to invite the whole church to participate in this pilgrimage – not only General Council commissioners, staff, and guests, but all of you “back home,” who won’t actually be travelling to Corner Brook, but who will be there in spirit… and who can connect via technology – through social media, the GC42 website, and live streaming once General Council begins.

Boardwalk at Gros Morne, NL

I’ll be on this pilgrimage for sure. In fact, I’ve come to realize that it might be the most important way for me to prepare for General Council. Maybe for all us.

First, because pilgrimage is rooted in prayer, I imagine all of us, across the church – even as we lift up our differing thanks, concerns, and hopes – joining together in prayer. Daily “pilgrim prayers” will be posted on the United Church Facebook page and also available in a prayer booklet on the GC42 website. Just knowing that this is happening, will bring a different energy for the journey – seeking heart-readiness, in the midst of all the busy-ness that inevitably comes with a General Council.

Secondly, I invite you to follow the General Council 42nd Youth Forum Pilgrims who would like you to join them in their journey across Canada. Thirteen youth commissioners plus two young adult leaders are doing a pilgrimage across the country. As they journey they are listening to the dreams and needs of young people, and visiting sites and people that will help to inform them of issues coming before the General Council. They are listening deeply and considering wisely as they engage with Spirit and the church.

Finally, I am hungry for “conversations that matter” among all of us pilgrims, an opportunity for us to talk, not about structure and the Comprehensive Review proposals, essential as those are, but about vision and mission – what’s really important in all that we do as a community of faith, what’s the essential stuff? It’s a conversation about the “why” of church as distinct from the “how.” The new wine, rather than the wineskin.

To do this, I’m inviting you to come along, all of us together on this pilgrimage, hearts open in prayer, and engaging in conversation online, sharing questions and insights right here – on my blog. There will be a minimum of facilitation… more of a free-flowing, open-ended sharing, letting the conversation take us where we need to go. I know that in the past, comments on my blog postings have usually been “one-off,” but for the next 40 days I hope it can become a platform for conversation. I will be commenting on replies, adding new thoughts… and I hope you do the same… not necessarily in response to what I’ve said, but having a conversation with others who are chiming in.

Along with praying the pilgrim prayers, I will post a weekly question or comment that I hope will spark discussion. We’ll listen to each other, not be quick to argue, but rather ask questions that take us deeper, and build on what has already been said. Let’s take the next 40 days as an opportunity to get ready for General Council by having conversations and prayer about our dreams and visions for the United Church. We can talk about our hopes for the church, our own sense of why we are involved, what we give and receive, how our lives have been changed. We’ll live into words like mission, evangelism, justice, prayer, testimony, transformation, mending the world, right relations, all my relations, God, post-theism, Jesus Christ, Spirit… and the theme of General Council 42, “Behold! I make all things new.”

Looking forward to connecting with you on the journey, fellow pilgrim!

Photo: Ik T, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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