Sunday, January 14, 2018

The many faces of God

Joyce Sasse - My first Christmas away from home was 1963, when I was sent as a delegate to a Student Theologs’ Conference in Toronto. Remembering back, I recognize how the presentations at that Conference formed the bedrock on which my understanding of ministry rests.

Rev. Gwenyth Hubble, a Baptist Minister from England, was on her way home from a World Council of Churches meeting in Mexico City. The churches there were discussing “Missio Dei” – how the Mission of the Church was but one part of God’s mission.

Instead of churches believing their job was to convert the whole world, they recognized the possibility that there might also be other ways people understand how a compassionate God can work to build a better world. Christians can learn from each other and from other World Faiths, and all of us can learn from those many label as “secular”.

The second presenter was Fr. Gregory Baum. He had been raised by a Jewish mother and Protestant father, and was brought to Canada as a child refugee in WW II. Baum worked behind the scene at Vatican II in Rome. He brought the excitement of a reawakened Catholic Church. There the delegates stopped hiding behind liturgy and Latin. They heard God calling them to speak in the languages of the people, they considered engaging in dialogue with other Faiths … and they let women listen in on their discussions.

Both presenters spoke of how faith-renewal begins at the edges of society. Christians can find God in surprising places.

This approach to ministry fit well with my own understanding honed in the little prairie community I called “home”. 

What a privilege for me to deepen my faith by learning from teenagers what “spiritual thinking” meant to them, and by encouraging non-church attenders to talk about their spiritual journey. Ranchers and farmers readily respond when I invite them to share thoughts about their encounters with God. A cooperative Ministerial Association in a community, I saw clearly, gives denominational leaders opportunity to work together while learning respect for each other’s differences. Could God also be working through other World Faiths? Talking together is a good way to find out.

We are so privileged to be able to catch glimpses of some of the many faces of God.

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