When I signed my book contract with Abingdon Press, we agreed on a deadline of April 30, I arranged for a two-month study leave from pastoral ministry to help me finish my manuscript on time, and I determined not to accept any extra responsibilities at least until mid-May.
Then I got Rick’s email: would I consider leading a one-day leadership day for Mennonite Church Manitoba on March 4?
No extras before mid-May, I said to myself. But my resolve quickly melted.
Mennonite Church Manitoba is a sister church within Mennonite Church Canada. I already know a number of the pastors and church leaders, and have been working with several on a Future Directions Task Force for our denomination. If I stayed an extra day, I could be present when MC Manitoba church delegates would discuss our final Task Force report. And as Rick described the theme for the leadership day, I realized that his core question was one that I had already been mulling over for myself: How do we remain connected to God in changing times when the church seems to be in constant flux?
So I said yes–as an exception to my earlier resolve–and I’m glad I did, since the short trip turned out to be a spiritually renewing time for me too. Here are a few moments of renewal that were part of my experience:
- a quiet supper alone at the folio cafe the evening I arrived, a bit of respite in the midst of a busy week. I can definitely recommend the chicken, artichoke, and tomato panini with Manitoba rooiboos tea. The apple rhubarb muffin also makes a delicious late-night snack.
- I left Abbotsford in the rain, arrived in Winnipeg to sunshine, and felt snow on my face the next day.
- a late night conversation with a member of my church who is a student at Canadian Mennonite University – thanks, Anna, it’s been a long time since I’ve stayed up talking until 1 in the morning!
- harp music by Paul Dueck and inspiring singing throughout the two days.
- hearing pastors share their stories of finding spiritual direction and congregational renewal, and many more personal and pastoral stories in informal conversations.
- the privilege of leading sessions on spiritual renewal for us personally, as congregations, and as we relate to our communities.
- lectio divina of 1 Kings 19 as part of my sermon, Spiritual Renewal in Changing Times.
- a kind worker who let me back into the Katherine Friesen building when I found myself locked out one morning – I’ll have to remember for next time that just because I have my room key doesn’t mean I can get back into the building!
- eating chocolate for breakfast the morning I was surprised to find the dining hall closed–that made me doubly thankful for the Ten Thousand Villages Divine milk chocolate given to me the night before as part of my thank you gift.
- for the Q&A in a morning workshop, I and many others raised our hands. When a man behind me was called on for his question, he responded, “Actually April had her hand up first.” Thank you, Ken, for noticing and making space for me. At a time when women are still looking for more male allies, you are one.
- the many comments of support in response to the pre-Christmas termination of my husband’s job. “How could this happen?” “Right before Christmas?” “He is in his prime. The professors I know in their 60s and even 70s are doing their best work.” “I’m so sorry,” I heard over and over again.
- healing laughter over shared joys and yes, even over sorrows. “We’re only laughing because it’s so painful,” I said.
- browsing through the book of prayers given to me as part of my thank you gift:
Taking a deep breath is good medicine,
providing you breathe in the breath of God.
These are just a few of the many moments of restoration I’ve experienced over these last few days. Thank you, Mennonite Church Manitoba, for the opportunity to breathe in the breath of God with you.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: What moments of spiritual renewal have you experienced this week?
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