I have recently become a Montreal Canadiens fan and am well on my way to being a devotee (despite elimination in the playoffs). I was in Quebec recently with our friends at Alliance Chrétienne et Missionnaire de Rimouski. At dinner I found myself smack in the middle of a conversation bordering on a historical accounting of and debate over of every single play or moment involving a Habs (or Leafs) player. Ever. I felt left out (and maybe that speaks to something else, but we aren’t talking about that here). It was strangely exciting to hear this conversation and how something so simple could invite and connect people to something bigger than themselves. I used to think sports fans (fanatics) were just weird.
I love being part of something bigger than myself. There is something inside of me that is drawn to shared experience, work, purpose, and a collective hope. The together-ness. I guess that is one of the big reasons I’m a pastor at a church. It’s Kingdom building; all the little pieces working together to make something truly grand.
Being out in Rimouski was a powerful experience for me. Partly because I had never been to that part of the country and I felt more Canadian than I ever have before (aside from the poutine comas and maple syrup cravings), but mostly because on Sunday morning I was sitting there with people who we as a church are being intentional with in ministry partnership. We were listening to Pastor Gagnon (St. Lawrence DS) exhort us to be on mission all the time, to everyone, everywhere. This is our message too.
It is tough to be a Christian in Quebec. It is hard to grow a church, to disciple believers. It even seems hard to plant a seed. Without doubt, there are vibrant, growing Christians, but there is at the same time an acute alone-ness felt. Part of it is I’m sure the tumultuous church history in that part of the country. It’s difficult to figure out how to work together. The whole Quebec-vs.-the-Rest-of-Canada mentality doesn’t help either. I am excited about how our church and ACM Rimouski church are looking at partnering together through friendship and service. We have much to share with them about Parish ministry, and they have much to teach us about being a church in an increasing secular society. We make effort to go there, and they make effort to send folks here to us. We are planning together for the long term.
It is easy and dangerous to be a silo, even within a great denomination. I was encouraged afresh as to what it means to be part of this Alliance movement. While all these things are good, it is more than giving to the Global Advance Fund (although we should be doing this), more than touching base at district retreats and Assembly. It is more than sharing stories and struggles and praying for each other. I realize I am fresh off this trip, and am aware this kind of ministry is likely happening in many other churches and relationships but honestly greater impact comes with the in person, hands-on; the physical ‘with-ness’.
We as churches are automatically part of something bigger than ourselves. We don’t need to be invited or swayed. How are we working together, building momentum to help each other’s pieces of this great Kingdom puzzle fit and flourish? How are we helping each other and working together to be more?