Question? All in favour? Motion carried!”
Our procedure may be in order, but are we forgetting anything?
We are told that when two or three come together there will be more than us there. Jesus promises to be in our midst, but often, it feels like we have left Jesus at the door and are carrying so many heavy burdens on our own:
Insurance costs, budget limits, government regulations, personnel matters and fewer people filling ministry positions all contribute to feelings of anxiety, worry and being overburdened.
So why do we forget to include the one who said his yoke would be easy and his burden light?
Well-meaning church folk will sometimes say: “We don’t have time for spirituality. We need to get down to the church business.” But what is our business if not to be faithful to our calling and stay connected to God’s Spirit, energy and direction? Paul warned the church in Philippi that to do otherwise is to labour in vain. (Phil. 2:16)
When we meet, we are enveloped in God’s love, empowered by the Holy Spirit and strengthened for more than we can ask for or imagine.
So how do we get Jesus through the door and into our meetings?
- Surprise! Jesus is already there to meet us. We don’t initiate a spiritual relationship with God. We simply respond to an ongoing invitation to full life. Assume that God is already ahead of us and in the room. Our ministries may be challenging, difficult and tiring, but be open to the one who said: “I come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
- Always begin and end a meeting with prayer and/or scripture. It is spiritually vital to spend a few minutes connecting with God and reflecting on our faith. This helps remind us that God is indeed present. Besides this, engaging with scripture connects us with the countless faithful over the ages that have drawn inspiration and guidance from God’s holy Word. It shifts us from our narrow focus and opens us up to the many possibilities that we have not yet considered possible.
- When faced with a challenging decision, stop all the talking and allow for some silence. This may seem uncomfortable at first because we are used to seeking direction by sharing ideas. Christians, however, recognize there is more to us and life than our own good ideas. Stop and listen for God to speak into the situation. Remember, this is God’s church and we are simply the stewards of this amazing and wonderful community of faith. Perhaps a good question to reflect on sometime might be: “How do we “hear” God?”
- Lighting a candle, making a small altar and placing an open Bible on the table are all ways that can provide a visual reminder that we are engaged in God’s holy work and that there is more to us and our church than business.
If you want to start incorporating scripture in your meetings you might be interested in the Love Letter blog. It provides a 15-minute group discussion to open church meetings. This short process of scripture meditation is based on one of the upcoming lectionary readings and provides an opportunity for individual reflection, small-group discussion and engagement in a spiritual practice. This gives busy clergy and lay leaders a ready-made resource that can change how you do ministry.
Another helpful resource is from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Virginia, that provides a weekly Bible study that can be adapted to a shorter, meeting openers.
At the very least, a short lectio divina can be used. Instead of four readings, use two at the beginning and a third reading at the end of the meeting. Ask: “What word or phrase stood out for you?” and then: “What is being said in this passage?” At the end of the meeting ask: “What is God asking us to do based on this passage?”
This February, parishes will be holding their annual vestry meetings. Love Letters will provide a number of different vestry meeting meditations you can choose from. This is a great time to remind ourselves that we are not alone and that we do not have to carry so many responsibilities and burdens on our own. For we can do everything through Christ, who gives us strength. 2 Philippians 4:13
Canon Dawn Davis is the Faith Formation Coordinator for the Diocese of Niagara