Page 8 - PC_Winter2020
P. 8

8 WINTER 2020
 Story of Mission: The Spirit is with Us
house visits. We miss the residents a lot. One great cause for celebra- tion, however, comes from the un- likeliest place: those video screens. One thing we can say for them is that they are certainly germ-free. We get to see George again next week and we can hardly wait.
Working in this ministry is a les- son in finding small joys amid great pain. Sometimes problems are too big for a quick fix. The forces at work are too great, and systemic change takes time. Our little ministry is un- likely to end poverty or cure schizo-
phrenia. But loneliness and isolation make both of those afflictions so much worse. And we can fight those by choosing to connect in the mo- ment we’re given. We can feel the Spirit right there with us, delighting in us as we delight in each other.
Read more Stories of Mission, along with reflections, prayers and discus- sion questions, at stories-of-mission
tion to the decisions it is making and perhaps unintentionally making in its deliberations. To that end, Cindy is leading the Life and Mission Agency through a strategic exercise to see what we are doing, why, where we should be prepared to go and how to invest in resources for a new day.
The experience of the church dur- ing and after the time of COVID-19 was very much on the minds of both conveners. Sandra is thinking about how we can focus on strategic plans, visionary leadership and connectional relations in light of what we have experienced and learned during the pandemic. “COVID-19 has forced us to look at how we worship, connect, provide pastoral care. In this time of being separated from each other at choir and Bible study and prayer groups, we have seen how valuable connecting with others is—how do we build on that and be the church?” she contemplated.
Cindy reflected on the opportuni- ties we have for ecumenical coopera- tion, and how the broader church can leverage our common faith and share what we do together in the world. She is also eager to see what the church can do post-COVID to understand and expand the nature of how we define community. To this, she said, “How will the church reach out to those people who have ‘dropped into church’ for many different reasons during this time? Being reminded that the church is beyond the building has never been more obvious, and there is big thinking for us all in the church to do.”
 By Kate McGee, Executive Director and Chaplain at Boarding Home Ministry in Toronto, Ont.
Gifts to Presbyterians Sharing help Boarding Homes Ministry reach out to people living in low-rent, inner-city dwellings, where they often struggle with mental illness, addiction and poverty. Through visits and com- munity education, the staff and vol- unteers are reducing social isolation wrought by stigma.
A few years ago, I met George, wild- haired and wild-eyed, at the door of his Parkdale boarding house. It was a typical Parkdale moment: I was ar- riving for a pastoral visit just as the firefighters were on their way out. It had been a false alarm.
We proceeded to the startling turquoise-and-yellow sitting room where George trained a skeptical eye on me and said, “What are you? Some kind of worker?”
“I’m a chaplain,” I offered, pre- pared to explain.
Unexpectedly, George lit right up. “A chaplain? I LOVE chaplains! We had those in prison!”
And so, a great friendship was born.
Over the better part of a year, we got to know George at our weekly visits. He was devastatingly funny, tossing a deadpan comment into a conversation that would make the whole room crack up. He had limit- less enthusiasm and childlike glee. He loved to read the Bible with our team member Jim and listen to him play
the banjo. As George came to trust us, we learned how hard his past was and how deeply he’d been hurt by people who were, in his words, “NOT kind and gentle.” We never missed a chance to affirm the fact that George stayed so tender-hear ted despite the cruelty he had faced.
Over the summer, George looked increasingly unwell and distraught. And before we knew it, he was back in prison.
Sandra Cameron Evans, Convener of the Assembly Council.
in the questions about sexuality and gracious dismissal that the church is wrestling with, both see a tendency for the remits about sexuality to become the lens through which all topics in the church are viewed, coupled with the risk that it prevents us from attending sufficiently to other impor tant matters.
Specifically, Sandra mentioned how interested she is in the important question about the role and status of young adult representatives at Gen- eral Assembly, which is under con- sideration. And she is excited about seeing the new and prominent place for the National Indigenous Ministry Council in the church formalized. Cindy picked up the conversation and spoke about the important work that is being done to study the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, that will have to wait to be addressed by the Assembly.
In considering their role as con- veners of General Assembly com- mittees beyond simply keeping or- der at meetings, Cindy and Sandra
It took us months to find him, but he was so delighted when we showed up on the video screen one day (new high-tech prisons no longer let visi- tors see their loved ones through Plexiglas). He asked us about the banjo and proudly told us about his Bible class.
COVID-19 has made things hard for our ministry, as we’ve been forced to substitute letters and phone calls for those crucial in-person
Cindy Stephenson, Convener of the Life and Mission Agency Committee.
were very thoughtful and spoke with care and concern about how they approach their leadership. Sandra strives to ensure that diverse voices around the table get heard, and she intentionally seeks ways to do this effectively and fairly. On the Assem- bly Council, Sandra is known for be- ginning all of her prayers at council meetings with the words: “God of community and unity.” The continuity of her words reminds members that diverse opinions and perspectives exist within a far greater cohesive unity of faith and the church. Cindy spoke of grace and graciousness as essential components of leadership. She also sees her role on the Life and Mission Agency Committee as help- ing members see their own mission and how they can make a difference in the church and the world through their service on the committee. Con- scious that the church and the world should be better tomorrow as a result of meetings held today, Cindy seeks to lift the eyes of the committee to peer into the future and pay atten-
 A Conversation with Two National Church Committee Conveners
  By the Rev. Ian Ross-McDonald, General Secretary,
Life and Mission Agency
Two of the gifted, faithful and insight- ful leaders serving as conveners of denominational committees are Sandra Cameron Evans, convener of the Assembly Council, and Cindy Stephenson, convener of the Life and Mission Agency Committee. Coinci- dentally, both Sandra and Cindy were born in Moose Jaw, Sask., are elders in congregations in Calgary, Alta., and have worshipped in rural and urban congregations across Canada. They both share with the church a wealth of experience and skills they acquired and honed in the corporate sector.
Sandra is a human resources spe- cialist, and Cindy worked in the area of project management with Imperial Oil Limited in cities from coast to coast. Both conveners also have long fam- ily histories in the church and parents who were active in congregations. Cindy’s grandmother worked at the national office, and generations of Sandra’s in-laws have been ministers and academics in the PCC.
In conversation with each other earlier this year, Cindy and Sandra spoke about how essential congre- gational life is to their spiritual and
devotional life. Cindy finds discipline in the community where prayer is the norm and where the principles that Christ modeled can be lived out in real ways. The Sabbath and its pat- terns of rest, prayer and renewal are deeply valuable to Sandra, along with appreciating and treasuring time as they are treasured in worshipping communities. Sandra went on to talk about how she has found impor- tant mentors and people who were formative in her faith in the congre- gations she has been part of. Talk of mentors turned the conversation to a discussion about the love and forma- tive influence of the “saints” we all encounter in the church. For Cindy, one of the gifts of being active in the church locally and nationally is the way it becomes a means of connect- ing to many more saints across the country. General Assembly and com- mittee meetings are for more than business, they are “family reunions” as the saints gather for worship and connection, as well as work.
Reflecting on the cancellation of the 2020 General Assembly, the conven- ers lamented the loss of fellowship as well as the opportunity to attend to im- portant topics for the church to con- sider. While recognizing the impor- tance of discerning God’s purposes

   6   7   8   9   10