Spiritual Renewal in Changing Times

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?

A_walk_before_breakfast

On my walk before breakfast at Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg, Manitoba

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 Prompt: What moments of spiritual renewal have you experienced this week?

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13 replies

  1. Excellent reflection, April. I need to see that my fellow ministers are managing that, even in the middle of a busy season!

    Lent is supposed to be a prayerful, reflective time. *sigh* Sometimes, it is. *grin*

  2. Wonderful that the experience fed you in other ways; I frequently feel that way too–at least if we are careful about not taking on too much. I was on my church’s pastor nominating committee for 6 months last year and while I knew it was a big time commitment, the experience became one of the most spiritually nourishing times I’ve had in the last ten years. A good thing!

    • Wow, Melodie, committee work as a spiritually nourishing time – I love that! For me, work, play, and rest often overlap, and like you, I think you’re right that part of the key is not being overloaded. Another thing that helps me foster that kind of sacred synergy is being able to exercise my gifts and setting aside any “toxic skills,” i.e., things that we may do well, but give us no life or energy (from Your Vocational Credo by Deborah Koehn Loyd).

      • Normally committee work–even for the church–is not so nourishing, but this particular activity was bathed in prayer, (both as a committee and from the church) in listening to each other and for God’s voice, and in meeting/interviewing some exciting candidates who in sharing their faith journeys, fired up my own! I wish I was freer to write more about it on my blog but as you know such details are held in secret and now that we have our new pastor, we were to dispose even our personal notes on the candidates. 🙂 It was an interesting Presbyterian process!

        • I wonder if it would be possible to share some of the process without revealing confidential information. So many churches and Christian organizations struggle with personnel-related issues including the initial call, that I think it would be helpful to have some good news stories around this.

  3. So you were in our neck of the woods, and I missed you! Too bad! I read you were going to be here, but it didn’t work out for me that day. I was preparing for a talk at Sam’s on their Paraguay evening. Sounds like you had a great time!

    • Yes, I had a wonderful time, and I wish we could have connected there. Too many good things happening all at once! I hope your talk went well. I’ve heard of Sam’s but have never been there. I should add it to my list for next time….

  4. Until you drew my attention to it here, I hadn’t recognized the full beauty of what happened in that seemingly brief moment between me, you, and Ken. Thanks for helping me to see beauty where I hadn’t before, April! And thanks for holding me accountable, Ken! 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by and for your comment, Peter. I really appreciated the workshop, how much work and heart the group put into it, and how different ones took part in the presentation. Well done! I’m glad for the responsiveness of those who attended too–you had a lot of hands to look out for 🙂

  5. Thanks so much, April. We really do see ourselves as adding a little of our hard work to all the hard work that has already been done by you and others! Thanks also for your feedback in the workshop. The group felt challenged, but in a way that really resonated. We’re hoping that our MCM reflection (which you can check out on our website if you want) and choices from here can honour the direction you pointed us in.
    Glad to be church with you!