Sunday, March 11, 2018

Full of laughter, full of light


Joyce Sasse -
 With a harsh winter like South Alberta has experienced, memories of weather related aspects of my work with the Saddle Bag ministry come back to mind.

This experimental ministry project was defined by church folk who well understood rural Saskatchewan. They determined that January and February be the time when church activities close down. Wise planning: the weather was severe, roads were impassable and “snowbirds” went south. So, the minister took holiday and study-break time.
Then we took advantage of opportunities in July and August to enjoy out-door services, have kid-camp-outs and explore a variety of interests by mixed age groups. It was about building healthy faith-filled communities.

The initiative for how-to-be-the-church came from congregants instead of from institution-based expectations. The alternative to falling under the dictates of “the relentless return of traditional Sunday morning church” were occasional services (bi-weekly or monthly). More emphasis could then be given to pastoral visits and community outreach activities. Families had time, too, for weekends away without their absence threatening the viability of numbers in attendance at church.

Years later, after we had adapted many Saddle Bag learnings in a more traditional Pastoral Charge setting, a succeeding minister tried to insist the churches revert to the more traditional way of doing ministry. He was quickly informed “No way!” Flexibility was appreciated as churches tried to respond to a constantly changing environment. The rigidity of arguing “but we’ve always done it that way” didn’t cut it.

To maintain a healthy spiritual development of individuals and communities, the work of the church is always evolving.

The sentiment expressed in Gordon Light’s hymn says so much. “From the heart of God, the Spirit moved upon the earth, like a mother breathing life into her child … And in the passage of her flight her song rings out through the night, full of laughter, full of light – she (the Spirit) flies on.”

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