I really do think that this vocation of mine is filled with rich blessings and opportunities. Sure ministry can be filled with challenges, but usually even those can be surprisingly wonderful! One of the things that is great about where I find myself is the privilege to see and experience diverse communities. Whether that’s simply within the bounds of Winnipeg Presbytery, further afield in The Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario or nationally or globally, it is an honour to experience human choices that strive to be the Kingdom in the now. This last month – I even got to hang out in the town of Swan River!
Swan River (1887) Photo: Thomas Fisher
Now this is not a travel blog about Swan River – though if you like fishing, golf and/or the outdoors, I think you would certainly be well pleased. In fact, what got me musing this week is the idea of privilege. There is an ongoing and appropriate analysis of what this means in our church culture. And – unfortunately – at times I think we respond with either guilt or apathy. And I get why that is … I also worry that sometimes we do not fully embrace the choices that come with the privilege we possess. Privilege is not a neutral state of being and leads to choices that are either informed or not. As those who aspire to be an Easter people, informed choices can affect lives and offer healing to our selves, God’s Creation and the Stranger.
Being in Swan River, I was reminded of the beauty of nature and the real power of hospitality. In the almost 20 years in which I have walked with The United Church of Canada, I have never seen dance offered as a way to share a community’s richness. And that is indeed what happened during one of the lunches. On my morning runs, my right arm was actually growing tired by the waving to which I responded by women and men in cars passing me by!
There I was (with about 300 hundred other UCC folks) …
privileged to be able to afford to travel;
privileged to experience a community that welcomed us; and,
privileged to recognise that there is blessing and work to be done …
I do not think it is inappropriate to note that hospitality to the Stranger, which we were, does not preclude that acknowledging that prejudice continues to exist in ourselves and others; and,
I do not think it is inappropriate to note that the semblance of earth’s bounty, which was clearly in bloom in Swan River, does not preclude that we collectively contribute to environmental degradation.
Priv[e|i]lege Photo: Quinn Dombrowski
And – here’s the thing with which I have been wrestling: as we (denominationally) sometimes get stuck in what we imagine we no longer have and (in turn) pull back owing to a lens of deficit, we remove ourselves from relationships. And without relationships, how can we affect the change for which we long? How can we share what know to be Good News, when we tell ourselves (too often I would have to admit were I able to look into that mirror) that there is not enough?
The Annual Church Gathering in Swan River is grounded in privilege and safety, which is not shared by many on Planet Earth. And by going to these places we are able to note things that sometimes staying at home we may not recognise. I pray that as we continue to explore change and the possibility of restructuring that we do not forget that staying under someone else’s tent is as important as the words we use to tell those we love how dear they are to us, because ‘life happens to us while we are busy making other plans …’