As I write this, first responders and tow truck operators are untangling 70 vehicles from a massive chain-reaction pile-up on one of Canada’s busiest highways. Squalls and blowing snow warnings have been routine from coast to coast for what seems like a week. And our poor, desperate friends in the Prairie provinces are locked in an endless grip of extreme cold.
Lord, help us.
Is it any wonder that we stay home this time of year? Only a few brave churches plan workshops and special events designed to attract people from outside their area. And if they do, there’s typically a snow date.
Yes, the faithful ones make it out to worship most Sundays and to midweek small-group or Bible study. And even though we might be trapped in our cabins, we still have our Bibles, devotionals, and readings. Opportunities to pray quietly alone in our prison cells are always an option.
But for many, that’s not enough. There is an inner longing to break out and mingle with others outside our routine circles. We yearn for a three-hour drive – perhaps a short-haul flight – a late-night arrival and overnight stay, the opportunity to see old faces and make new friends. We long for peel-and-stick name tags, engaging speakers, Q&A, discussion groups, the catered lunch, and the break-time cookies.
What you need – no, what you yearn for – is a good old-fashioned national or regional gathering of kindred souls.
You are not alone.
The Renewal Fellowship Board – in full anticipation of our national springtime need – last fall finalized plans for our annual day of encouragement. “A Day of Renewal: one mission three points, three speakers” takes place on April 6, a good two weeks into spring, when the chances of a snow storm are about the same as the front pews being filled first on a Sunday morning.
I can testify to the feeling. Like most Canadians, I appreciate winter. But by February, I start to feel the blues. March brings mild desperation. The year 2016, when I attended my first Renewal Fellowship annual meeting, was no different. I can still feel the sense of joy as we sat in the worship space at Kortright Presbyterian Church in Guelph, Ontario. For the first time as a Presbyterian minister, I felt as though I was among kindred souls.
It’s a crazy little thing called koinonia. Holy koinonia. Greek for fellowship, association, and community, it takes place when we share in the presence of the Holy Spirit. While it’s entirely possible – and indeed happens – in familiar small groups and worship, it’s altogether different when we step out of our comfort zones, our homes, and our churches and venture down the highway. When we put significant effort into our associations, God is present. Seek and you will find.
Mind you, the Spirit of the Lord must also be present with the organizers. I humbly submit that the Renewal Fellowship Board and its officers earnestly approach the Lord every summer and seek wisdom as we discern where to gather, who to call as speakers, and what theme to adopt.
We pray that this year will be no different.
There will be a difference, however, in the speakers. This year, we are going in-house. The theme – “one mission, three points, three speakers’’ – refers to our new mission statement: “To lead each other and The Presbyterian Church in Canada to authentic Biblical thinking, powerful Spirit-led prayer and effective Gospel witness.” Renewal Board chair Ian Shaw will speak on Biblical authenticity, Board member Rev. John Park will venture into effective Gospel witness, and yours truly will explore Spirit-led prayer.
These are three vital needs for the church. Each time of presentation will be followed by small-group discussion. Continuing a tradition, we will also hear from the moderator of General Assembly, Rev. Daniel Cho.
Of course, what’s an annual gathering without a time of business, nestled right after lunch when we’re all nicely fed? It’s the Presbyterian thing to do. And we promise, it won’t be painful.
Ready to smell the welcome coffee? Registrations are being accepted. Everything you need can be found here. (Early bird deal expires March 4.)
God wired us for holy fellowship. Let’s get plugged in and see what happens.