By Rev. Brenda Kersell (Photos by Rev. YoonOk Shin and Rev. Alwin Maben)
The theme of this year’s Stewardship Event was Stewardship: Serving the world in a church that is changing. I was attracted to attending this October 19-20 event in Red Deer for a number of reasons: the opportunity to reconnect with church folk after a year’s absence from engagement in the wider church and more particularly to hear the presentations by keynote speaker, Rev. D r. Chris Levan. Through his work as a professor, author and minister, Christ Levan is known for being thought-provoking and engaging and his presentations this past weekend didn’t disappoint.
In his first address on Friday evening, Chris engaged us in reflecting on the challenges we face both personally and corporately as congregations. We were reminded that the issues/concerns/challenges we face are being experienced by others including other organizations in our communities. Chris then helped us recognize that we’ve become stuck in attitudes of grieving, blaming and shaming for what no longer is nor can be again and that we need to let go so we can become more effective agents of the Gospel in our time. One of the phrases Chris used that sticks with me is “You can’t expect bantam hens to lay ostrich eggs.” In other words, we need to alter our expectations and the lenses through which we view/measure ourselves and our ministry.
On Saturday morning, Chris called us to put on our aprons, gathering us in the Church kitchen for an intimate time of bread making as we considered the bread that was needed in Jesus’ time and place along with the ways he offered it, as well as examining the Lord’s Prayer as offering keys to the kinds of bread we uniquely have to offer. We were left with a challenging question: “What ‘bread’ is needed by people where we are and how might we offer it?”
In his final presentation, Chris engaged us in exploring that question. Through storytelling – his and our own, we considered the needs and hungers in our particular communities and the gifts we as communities of Jesus’ way have to offer in concrete ways that will feed people’s heart, soul and lives.
With the intimate number of participants, the workshops were re-configured so that everyone was able to benefit from all of them. Admittedly, I only participated in the Saturday morning workshop as I had another commitment in the early afternoon. Three of the staff from the Philanthropy Unit of General Council (David Armour, Kathryn Hofley, & Ruth Noble) shared the new resources available as well as the various possibilities available to congregations for both grants to fund new initiatives and investment opportunities. I was impressed with the multi-generational interactive resource on Generosity as a Spiritual Practice which Ruth demonstrated for us. This kit is available by contacting either Ruth or Kathryn.
I have greatly appreciated the various Stewardship Events and activities organized by the Conference Stewardship committee that has provided myself, other leaders and congregations with programs, resources and ideas for enabling good and meaningful stewardship practices. And it is my hope that as we transition into a new way of being in Regions and cluster groups that we will find ways to continue to foster good stewardship.