Myself (Andy), Nathan, Jodi & Mike spent 3 days in Cambridge Ontario last week with about 40 other leaders and pastors at the first “Metanoina” gathering that Vineyard Canada is piloting. It was a wonderful time full of laughter, prayer, tears, food, challenge and a whole lot more. I’m sure they will continue in some form or another given the success of this one. There are many highlights, including a quick skinny-dip in the local stream – but I’ll reflect the more edifying elements here.
Metanoia means “re-think” or “think again”. It seems that the Vineyard in Canada is in a season of not only doing that, but being re-envisioned, re-discovering our identity, re-tooling for our mission, re-forming our leadership, re-capturing our birthright, re-connecting with each other and re-engaging hope on a national level. It’s not that any of these were missing in previous years, but there does seem to be a tangible uplift happening across the country.
We gathered on the stunning grounds of the Cambridge Vineyard. It is situated in an oasis of ancient and towering maple, oak, pine and spruce trees. Nestled in this natural beauty is a collection of old stone buildings, some of which date back 200 years. It used to be a monastery before the Vineyard acquired them. The grounds are surrounded by an old (and crumbling) stonewall. There is a saying that, “we build buildings, and then they build us”. Gathering in such a beautiful spot, certainly enhanced the sense of beauty we experienced in each other and enriched our worship together. It was evident that great care was taken to curate our environment. Various works of art spoke to us from the walls and a series of sculptures pointed us Godward. Even the set-up for communion was lavish – much like our God. It inspired me to think more deeply about our own environments in which we gather. We often say the Eucharist is the central act of Christian worship, but we often act in a way that relegates the Communion table to the periphery. This must change.
Various “catalytic leaders” shared their hearts & ideas with us:
Vineyard Formation – Jon & Beth Stovell from Calgary talked about all the ways theological and spiritual formation is happening across the country. There are specific efforts at providing some synergy and collaboration among the various efforts.
Vineyard Pulse – Anita Ruis shared about this prayer and prophetic initiative, which will hear and pray the heartbeat of God for the Vineyard in Canada. They are taking practical steps to hear, envision and train those involved in prayer in churches across the country. There is an invitation to re-capture our particular Vineyard voice in these areas which is super exciting.
Vineyard Multiplication & Entrepreneurial Mission – Larry Levy, from Halifax, did a standup comedy routine – um, I mean he shared deeply church planting, citing a few recent initiatives. Todd Rutkowski, from Calgary, gave us some examples of entrepreneurial mission that might not fall under traditional church planting models, but they are working – so who cares about traditional models anyways, eh!? It’s wonderful to be part of a movement that can embrace both without being scared or intimidated by the other.
Vineyard Worship – Marc Pusch (New Brunswick) talked about the reemergence of this essential part of our movement, not as a business, nor a record label, but as a genuine reflection of our response to God in song and art.
Vineyard Engage – Beth Wood (Halifax) and myself shared our desire and plans to see the Vineyard in Canada fully engaged and speaking into all kinds injustice at local, national and global levels. I cried (and made others cry). It was a win.
We also heard from representatives of each region across the country. The general sense is that God is on the move. Ellie Mumford (UK) said/prophesied last year at Enlive that “Aslan is on the move!” This appears to be true. While there are varying degrees of loss experienced over the past number of years which varies from region to region, there is agreement across the country that good things are afoot. They may not be big, but they’re small! David and Anita Ruis’ leadership is instrumental in this. They’re doing a great job.
A Prophetic People
We did a lot of listening to each other, with many break-out and “whiteboard” sessions. However, we did have two sessions with Caleb Maskell, a founding member of the Society of Vineyard Scholars. Not only is he a great guy with stylin’ glasses (they’re almost identical to mine), he’s pretty smart and gave us a Spirit-filled challenge. He contended that we should rethink being primarily a “culturally relevant” people to embracing a “prophetic” posture. He said that the church is to be the “institutional memory of the people of God”. That is, we are to remind those around us (and ourselves) what God has done and demonstrate what God will do. Being a prophetic people means showing the world what it means to really be fully human.
Rooting ourselves in this kind of prophetic vocation will allow us to influence our cultures on a different level. Instead of getting irreparably bogged down in various issues, perhaps a better way is to call people into God’s story through Jesus. Caleb suggested the Eucharist is our most tangible expression of this, in which we have a “suffering God calling us to life”. We live in the tension that is most saliently displayed in the bread and wine. From this place of worship we extend the invitation to “encounter Jesus and live the story.”