Gathering God’s people
With the Synod meeting happening on 16-19 April, now is a good time to reflect on the nature and importance of church meetings.
While Church meetings do take valuable time and commitment, there is often a sense they do not achieve much. And for some members of our Church, it seems complaining about meetings has become a sport.
Meeting face-to-face with another person is the best way to really understand their needs and feelings, and to hear their vision and hopes for the Church. Communication by email can become confused when several people join the conversation. In a phone call, we cannot judge body language and we can misinterpret the tone of the conversation.
Within the diverse cultures of our Uniting Church, taking the time to meet and share food and conversation is important for building mutual understanding and a spirit of shared decision-making. This can be as important as arranging a formal meeting with an agenda.
In the Bible, we hear many stories of the disciples meeting with Jesus. In some of these meetings, Jesus shared stories and parables with the disciples to develop their ability to discern how to act and to help them develop the wisdom they would need for future action and decision-making.
At other times, bread was broken and food and drink were shared in a more relaxed time of meeting together. Sometimes, Jesus was task-focussed, with a sense of urgency about the work of reconciliation and renewal that is the mission for which God has created the church.
But Jesus also spent time with his disciples building a sense of community and trust among those who would go on to share the Good News far and wide. After this time with Jesus, the disciples continued on, energised and prepared for action.
At the heart of our way of being Church is the belief that we best decide and discern where God is calling us when we gather with other faithful disciples.
When we meet together and break bread, we are reminded that Jesus is present with us, just as he was with the first disciples.
Today, as always, whenever we gather to pray, worship and share our stories, there are plenty of rich opportunities for us to learn, be built up and to feel the Spirit — already at work within us — being renewed.
So, every time we meet together as Church — such as at Synod — may we arrive expectant. Let us anticipate that we will hear and see Jesus among us. May we bring our challenging questions, as well as our words of affirmation and encouragement.
May we come willing to make difficult decisions, and to find peace and comfort in caring for each other as we do so. And may we come expectant of renewal in us and in the Church we love, so we will be enlivened and inspired for the mission God is calling us to.
Rev. Suzanne Stanton