Last night I got to sit in a room of two hundred people who had gathered for the annual fundraising dinner and silent auction in support of the Anglican Chaplaincy at the University of Alberta. The guest speaker was the mayor of Edmonton, Don Iveson, who has recently invited our Bishop, Jane Alexander, to sit as co-chair with him on a city task force to end poverty. Don described himself last night as ‘spiritual’, and said that his Facebook profile described his religious beliefs as ‘It’s complicated’. But one thing of the things that he said that struck me was, “I was a little surprised – and I really shouldn’t have been – to look around the room tonight and see so many faces I recognized”. He was alluding to the fact that many of the people at the dinner are very active in supporting good causes and working tirelessly to try to make our city a better place for everyone, especially the less fortunate.
Yes, I thought, that’s what we do. We don’t tend to make a big noise about it, but when I look out over our church on a Sunday and start to think about some of the projects that some of our folks are involved in, I start to get a warm feeling. Not that we’re trying to get all boastful about how good we are (I’ve got more than enough sins to keep me busy repenting for years to come), but Paul tells us that the important thing is ‘faith working through love’, and there’s a whole lot of that in the Anglican community in this city.
I get to work with some excellent clergy colleagues, genuine people who love the Lord and want to serve him and his people. Most of them didn’t get into this work to make a name for themselves or to run big complicated organizations; they got into it to do some good in the name of Christ. Many of them are tired and some of them are burnt out, but for the most part their hearts and minds are firmly in the right place. Of course, we don’t always see eye to eye on how this work should be done, and sometimes we argue and fight about it, and when we do that, from time to time we say hurtful things to each other, and then we have to apologize and try to make things right. But I’m blessed in the people I get to call my colleagues: I can say that without any hesitation.
I’m also blessed in my church community, St. Margaret’s. Yesterday morning I met with a group of about seven men who gather every Thursday at 7 a.m. at a local coffee shop for Bible study. This is the longest standing small group in our parish, and it has become my favourite hour of the week. The leadership is shared between four or five of us, and it’s not uncommon for one of the others to say something that opens some fresh light for me on a well-known biblical text.
My parish family sometimes looks pretty chaotic on Sunday mornings; we have a lot of small children in our church, so it’s not quiet! I don’t mind that: a noisy church is a church with a future, but a quiet church is probably a dying church. I love the kids, and the love and the chaos they bring. I love that their parents go to the effort to get them up on Sundays and bring them to church. I love the seniors who have stuck with us through the years and meet once a month on a Thursday for our seniors’ ‘Lunch Bunch’ gathering. I love the busy people who volunteer their time as wardens and vestry members, musicians and Sunday School teachers and the many other jobs that need to be done to keep this little part of the family of Christ doing the things Christ has called us to do.
Last Saturday morning I got to fulfil another of my roles, as an evangelism resource person in the Diocese. Some of our parishes are using Natural Church Development, and as usual they score low in the areas of ‘passionate spirituality’ and ‘needs-oriented evangelism’. So I was asked to come and speak to their leadership teams about evangelism, and I spent a couple of hours sharing with them on the subject of ‘How to Relax and Enjoy Evangelism’. I got a really good response, and I had a great time.
Many years ago I prayed that God would show me what he wanted me to do in the community I was working in at the time. I’m not the sort of guy who gets visions or hears voices, and I didn’t hear an audible voice that day, but I did get a sense that God was speaking to me, calling me to do three things: pray, love, and spread the Gospel. Later on, a fourth thing got added: make disciples for Jesus.
Those four things have stuck with me through the years; they still describe the important things I believe Christ is calling me to. I’m happiest and most at peace when I get to do those things. Of course, some days I’m keeping the machinery going, and I don’t have a lot of patience with that. But last night I realized again that I need to do less stressing about that. Most of what I get to do, I enjoy doing, and at the end of the day, lots of people can’t say that. So – thanks to the Lord for letting me do this, and to our parish family and the wider Anglican community for supporting me in it. After almost thirty-six years, I’m still getting a lot of enjoyment out of this work, and I think the enjoyment is actually growing each year!