An Invitation to Pay Attention
In the Vineyard, we have a strong priority of “doing what the Father is doing.” What this means practically is that because we believe that God is always working, our role is to be attentive so that we can join him in this work, rather than coming up with our own projects and trying to get his blessing. Our capacity for being attentive to what God is doing is greatly enhanced when we obey the biblical injunction to, “[keep on being] filled with the Spirit…” (Ephesians 5:18-19). I sense that God’s first invitation to us in this post-sabbatical year is to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit, resting from our work and entering more fully into His work. Implied is the willingness to slow down, to wait, and to listen.
Related to this, I hear the Spirit’s invitation to communal contemplation. What do we mean by that? Contemplation is the art of paying attention, to God, to ourselves, and to others. It means paying attention to how you listen, even while you are listening to others. We are in a culture that is not good at listening. We are bombarded with so much media and so many distractions while trying to get a word in edgewise. We suffer communal attention deficit disorder. It is costing us our health - in mind, in body, and in relationship. Added to this is the lack of margin for meaningful conversations and relational time due to the high cost of living in our major cities. Given the times we are in, we can’t afford not to slow down - as Bill Hybels wrote, we are "too busy not to pray."
Practically, this means continuing in appropriate soul training practices as well as setting aside one night a month where we continue to come together for corporate listening prayer, sometimes joining with other congregations in the city. A lot of these corporate listening events will be spent in communal silence and contemplation, but we will include some time for liturgy, spoken prayer and worship. The goal is to simply pay attention to what the Father is doing and to then respond accordingly. Being faithful to do this is a humble acknowledgement of Jesus’ words, “Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Last but not least, let's not forget that it also means holding the tension between an expectation of the kingdom breaking in at any moment, while refusing to manipulate or trying to make it happen.
A deeper sense of “place” and putting down our roots.
The second invitation is also related to paying attention, but specifically to where God has placed us, including our current physical placement at St. David of Wales. There has been such a sense of us coming “home” since our move here in 2014. This has been evident in so many ways, including the “Let’s Grow Together” community garden team, led by Gloria and Will, giving us favour and deeper connection to the neighbourhood. It has been evident in the rapport we have enjoyed with the Anglican diocese and the St. David's warden, Dan Attridge, as we have sought to be faithful to the story that they began here a long time before we ever arrived. It has been evident in a much greater sense of pride and ownership that our congregation has experienced in taking up residence here. I have enjoyed a greater sense of connection with pastors of churches within a few blocks of us. These factors alone have greatly increased our sense of “place” as a community.
As we move forward together, we want to implement and encourage practices that will help us as a congregation to be more attentive to our place. This raises a dilemma for us as a community. What does having this “sense of place” look like for those of us who love to worship here, but do not live in the neighbourhood? Some of us commute from as far as North Delta! Yet, as a congregation, as we are faithful to be attentive to our sense of place with those of us who live in this neighbourhood (Hastings Sunrise), this will cultivate practices that will help all of us be more attentive to where we live in our own neighbourhood. Indeed, this will provide a model or “prototype” that will encourage each member of our congregation to be more rooted and attentive to where they live while being faithful to our church home. This will include continuing to “beautify our worship space,” while we develop our vision for the “art of neighbouring” where each of us live. Indeed, our vision is for numerous communal expressions to be birthed from our church around the city and region, each of which becoming a faithful presence to their surrounding neighbourhood, yet closely connected to other neighbourhood hubs.
St David of Wales – Honoring the Place and the Story
Related to the first two invitations, we want to be attentive to God’s invitation to lovingly steward the remarkable heritage building and property that he has entrusted to us. We have a remarkable window of opportunity before us. We have already had community work bees with plans for more. Another exciting development in progress is that the first six months of this year are being devoted to prayerfully gathering a team that can take responsibility for the care and the upkeep of the property on behalf of the diocese. We have already had our first team gathering. This team will engage in a season of mentoring under the church warden, Dan Attridge, with a view to full stewardship of the property by September 1, 2016.
"Stewardship" in the biblical sense is the acknowledgement that we own nothing, but are simply stewards of all that God has entrusted to us. This is his strong invitation to us this year. "And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own" (Luke 16:12)?
"Lord, awaken us, make us aware, and help us to be attentive to the remarkable invitations you are extending to us this year, and to respond appropriately. Amen."
Conclusion and Reflection:
As you reflect on this invitation to pay attention, what are the biggest barriers to your own listening – to God, others, as well as to yourself? What are the biggest challenges to your being attentive to your place? What are signs of God at work in your neighbourhood?