Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Hanging out with the Baptists

Well, as of today I am a working woman. You can find me at Emmanuel Baptist Church, working for the Quest camp, for the next 5 weeks. I am still feeling quite uprooted and confused, but at least now I'm a productive uprooted-and-confused person. Today's goal was to figure out how to copy information from last year in the computer program we use for our registrations, called "EZ Camp". Turns out it's not so "easy" to use. Actually, it's hands down the most unintelligible and illogical program I've ever tried to make sense of. But today, I conquered it, I made it do what I wanted, and that is a job well done. I also got to know my coworker Jeff a lot better, and I'm getting more and more excited about the way the summer is shaping up.

I must tell you about last weekend. Last weekend I went to Banff to participate in the Baptist Union of Western Canada General Assembly. I thought I was going just to play piano in a worship team a few times, and otherwise goof off with Chris in Banff, maybe hang out with Jodi a bit... but God had much larger plans. He was really sneaky and underhanded this time. He lured me there and got me hooked on my own denomination. You see, I've never been very attached to the idea of being a Canadian Baptist, or even a Baptist. Apparently, this is true of many Baptists. Attending a multi-denominational (trans-denominational?) Bible school certainly hasn't helped. If anything, I've become wary of denominationalism and eager to focus on what we all share as Christians. And I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing.

But this weekend I discovered that it's also not a bad thing to feel a sense of belonging to a larger family of churches. I realized that the Canadian Baptist family of churches that I was "born into" - that I did not choose - is also a family that I would gladly choose if given the choice today. T
his assembly presented me with a seemingly uncool and innocuous group mostly consisting of middle-aged men and women, who were in fact undercover rebels and renegades steering the denomination in a radical direction. I was actually so excited by the kinds of decisions they were making that I sat through a whole morning of business meetings. I saw them pass an ambitious budget, change the denomination's name to bring it into greater solidarity with our sister denominations in Canada, and restructure the board so that more time would be spent "doing" and less time sitting in meetings.

I heard so many stories about churches and ministries moving outs
ide the walls of the church and meeting needs... farmers from rural Alberta sending grain to Kenya during a famine, professors from Carey educating pastors and lay leaders in Africa and Latin America, churches in Vancouver entering into the suffering of Pickton's victims, and found out that my denomination supports ministries I've come to value while at Regent, like A Rocha and REED - showing concern for justice, crying out on behalf of exploited women and the exploited earth. I saw the leadership of the denomination pass to a woman president, and witnessed many male leaders reaffirming the Canadian Baptist belief and practice of ordaining women and expressing their gratitude for the perspective and leadership of their female colleagues. I heard words like "kingdom" and "shalom" repeatedly, and realized that these people are passionate about the same things I've become passionate about at Regent and at Jacob's Well. I saw it written on the faces and in the tears of the leaders as they described the good work that is being done and that is yet to be done. Suddenly people I hadn't even met were affirming my choice to do the M Div, offering to support my education financially and praying for me. I felt a true sense of belonging, something resonated deep inside me, and I could see myself standing on the shoulders of all these new heroes of mine, following in their footsteps.

People who grow up in Christ-following families often speak of a time when they "made the faith their own". I guess you could say this weekend I made the denomination my own. It's obviously not as big a deal, but it's a pretty big deal for me as I look ahead to a career in ministry. I'm still open to God leading me in a different direction, but at this point, whether in pastoring, camping, or missions work, I would be thrilled and proud to work with the Canadian Baptists.


I leave you with some pictures I took on the drive to Banff... which was, to me, a wonderful rediscovery of the beauty of the prairies, an experience that felt like being unfurled and opened up under the big, big sky.