Forgiveness does not mean we’ll forget something, but we can let go. . . . Forgiveness is when you can look at someone who has hurt you, and still feel peace inside. . . . When we choose the place of forgiveness, it sets us free.
– quote from Rev. Dale Lang, whose son, Jason, tragically lost his life in a school shooting in 1999 in the small town of Taber, Alberta, Canada—just eight days after the terrible school shooting at Columbine.
I’ve heard Rev. Lang share his story before—a story of family and loss, that recognizes the pain of being bullied and how that pain in turn can bring devastation to others, a story of forgiveness and compassion, that’s down-to-earth, wise, and inspiring. I thought he was a great choice as guest speaker for the annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in Abbotsford this year.
I remember going to my first Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast shortly after I started pastoring. The room was full—with the mayor and many of the city councillors, school trustees, representatives of the police and firefighters, many pastors, many business people and community leaders—but not a single other pastor from my own denomination. “Oh, I guess ‘we’ don’t do this,” I thought to myself. I was quite obviously a neophyte and out of the loop as a new pastor.
Since then, I’ve sometimes attended the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, sometimes not, depending on the speaker, depending on what else is happening in my life and ministry at the time. This year, since I had agreed to be part of the executive for the Abbotsford Christian Leaders’ Network that plans the event, of course I would be there. That was the least I could do since my part in the planning was mainly one of cheering from the sidelines (yes, what a great idea for a speaker – you’re doing a wonderful job finding sponsors – thank you for all your efforts!).
This was the 24th annual event, so the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast is quite well established in our community, but I found myself wondering, is it a vestige of Christendom in what some say is a post-Christendom era, or is there something missional about it?
On the one hand:
- we started out singing O Canada, including what is actually the fourth verse (did you even know that our national anthem had more than one verse? I noticed that most of us needed to look at the program for the words).
- again, I felt the absence of other pastors from my denomination, although our area church executive minister was present and also one other member of my congregation. Is that absence simply a matter of time and priorities, or is there some discomfort with a perceived mixing of church and state?
Yet for me, it also felt somehow missional:
- as a pastor, I was outside of my church and in the community, talking with a city councillor sitting on one side of me at the table and a local business owner on the other side.
- the prayer breakfast itself is a witness to the wider community that Christians and churches care about the city and can work together.
- it was an opportunity to share a message of forgiveness in a non-church setting.
- it was an opportunity to share Scripture about caring for strangers and being generous with others.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: Do you have a Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast or something similar in your area? What are some of the reasons you might or might not participate?
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