Here We Are, Send Us
First after Pentecost - Year B
Sunday, June 11, 2006
First after Pentecost - Year B
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Let us pray: O God, help us to hear you speak to us, not only through the creation which surrounds us in this place, but in ever new and different ways. May your voice speak through these words which I offer today. Amen.
A few years ago - probably longer ago than I am willing to admit, I learned a new hymn. It was one of the hymns that introduced me to the work of Brian Wren - whose hymn words are probably the most thoughtful and provocative of any hymn writer I know. The particular hymn I am referring to is this: There’s A Spirit in the Air.
I thought of it this morning because of the sense it gives us that God’s presence is all around us, stirring us, moving us, raising issues and like little dust devils (what a strange term that is!) creating commotion in our lives. I mention dust devils - mini-tornadoes if you will, because of the way they remind me of how ideas can swirl about us and suddenly be driven into a more intense experience. The spirit in the air that I’m sensing these days is one that concerns itself with leadership.
It’s not hard to know where it came from. Let me list a few for you: Here’s the T-Shirt I earned by chairing the Business Committee at a recently completed meeting of Alberta and Northwest Conference. It doesn’t leave the theme in much doubt. Add to that a letter from Peter Short recently sent to every congregation in the United Church of Canada. Add to that one of the theme speakers at our meeting of Alberta and Northwest Conference. Add to that some of the meetings I’ve attended in the past several weeks - the gathering sponsored by the Assembly of First Nations and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation to outline the Residential School agreement recently signed by the Government of Canada, the churches who ran Residential Schools and the AFN. Add to that the need to write articles for the Church Newsletter and the Annual Report.
What I’m trying to say here, and I’m sure you’ve experienced the same situation, is that a particular topic or issue will come into your line of vision and then it seems that many things or even everything that happens seems to revolve around that issue. I’m sure there’s something about having your mind attuned in a particular fashion that explains some of the coalescence of thoughts and ideas, but it is also a strong image of the presence of God for me that we should see connections among many things at particular times in our lives. For me it is a living out of that hymn - there’s a spirit in the air, and that spirit right now is inviting me at least - but it seems like many more - to think about leadership.
As if to seal the deal, the speaker at conference that I referred to earlier was Keith Howard. If you read the United Church Observer, that name should be familiar to you. Keith writes the back page of the Observer every other issue. He is also the Executive Director of the - get this - Emerging Spirit campaign - which is an initiative focused on establishing and nurturing a relationship between the United Church and Canadians aged 30–45. If you go to the Emerging Spirit web site (go to united-church.ca and put Emerging Spirit into the search field) you will quickly see this quote: "The indispensable key to the long-term impact of Emerging Spirit will be effective congregational leadership. Leadership at the congregational level now is a highly sophisticated and nuanced art that requires the ability to see and to utilize many different skills and approaches." Talk about a daunting, challenging and yes, exciting thing for one appointed congregational leader to read! And then this morning I read Keith’s latest back page contribution. I was tempted to bring it and make it the whole reflection this morning. I did bring it, but I decided instead to let you read it for yourself.
One of the key elements in my understanding of congregational leadership, is the team approach. We tend to focus on individuals - the Bible story is rife with leadership individuals - Noah, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah - way too many of them are men - Miriam, Ruth, Esther, Mary (pick whichever one you want!) - are some of the all too few women and of course, Jesus, Peter, and Paul. Because of these individual examples we perhaps want to read the story of the call as a personal one - in much the same way that we interpret the story of Nicodemus and being born again. But what if we heard the call of God - the beckoning of the Spirit as a collective call - a call to us as a congregation. Instead of “Here I am God - send me” what if it was “Here we are God, send us”. What it would be like for us to tell stories of how our congregation was “born again”? What does it take for us to be a leader as a congregation? I’m not saying we are not that already, but a wise person said more than once that to become truly outstanding at whatever we do we must do better at those things we already do well.
There’s a spirit in the air - that spirit is speaking to me about questions of leadership. What does it take for us to respond to that spirit? What does it mean to answer, “Here we are, send us”? I can hardly wait to see what answers emerge. Amen.