They were all gathered in one place and a gush of wind blew through the room and touched them like tongues of fire…in a nutshell that is how Pentecost began for the Christian Church and in fact how the Church began. When gathered in one place they were moved by the Spirit and church life began. The United Church (and other denominations) has long put a priority on being in one place to make decisions that will affect church life. For many years we functioned with four “courts” of decision making: the local Church Council; the Presbytery (Toronto Southeast); the Conference (Toronto) and the General Council. Our new structures just have three levels of governance: Church Council; Regional Council and General Council. It is in these bodies that the United Church seeks to be guided and led by the Spirit of God.
We sought that presence of the Spirit in regular meetings where we would gather for worship, education, discernment and finally decision making. Such meetings were a lot of work for those organizing each gathering and for participants as they would have a lot of reading to do in advance of the meeting. But then we would gather and seek the Spirit as we renewed the Church and made the always necessary changes as God called us forward into a new understanding of ourselves, our neighbours, and how we would serve God’s mission. What seemed an inordinate amount of time to some was given to worship. It was in prayer that we felt the wind of the Spirit moving through our space and giving us courage for the living of these days.
COVID-19 has put a stop to such gatherings. Yet the Church continues to live its mandate at all governance levels. Our Region, “Shining Waters”, met this past Saturday via ZOOM. It was not, and will never be, the same but then nothing is the same this COVID year. By not being there we kept everyone healthy and safe. By not being there we were able to be there in an inadequate but adequate way. It will do for now until we are able to gather in one place again and to touch, hug, and maybe even dance with joy the Spirit’s presence in our work.