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Dear Friends in Valhalla Parish—

What do you feel when you immerse yourself in the Pentecost story? If you were to close your eyes and imagine yourself there, in the upper room amongst the other disciples, what do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? As you look around, what do you see in the faces of the others there with you? As you look one another in the eye, do your eyes smile? Do you bite your lip? What worries you? What brings excitement? 

As you immerse yourself in the possibility of this moment, a moment of waiting for God to be revealed, what does it feel like in your body? Pay attention to that. Sit with it. Consider writing it down. If you're looking for a writing prompt, how about this:

"When I was there in the upper room, gathered with the disciples, I felt..."

When I was there in the upper room, gathered with the disciples, I felt nervous. I could feel the discomfort in the pit of my stomach. I could feel that something wasn't right. I could feel that something was off. Something was amiss. I couldn't tell you what it was, but it felt like we were on the verge of God knows what. We had been through so much, we had been through hell and back; to the cross and back; to the ascension and back. And here we are again, in another repeated cycle of discomfort and unknowing. 

What's next, I kept asking myself. What comes next? 

Dear siblings in Christ, this is how I find myself today, June 2, 2022. On Friday morning, people from across our diocese will gather at St. Andrew's in. Trail to prayerfully discern next steps for ministry in the West Kootenay region of our diocese.

Archbishop Lynne will be present and facilitating the day. She will walk us through prayer and scripture study. She will walk us through an exploration of our own congregational life. She will help us to take a look at the context for our ministry and how we might best be equipped to minister to the people throughout our region.

Together, we will ask questions about what God is calling us to now. Sometimes talk like this gets me nervous, because I don't have the answers on my own. But what I often forget is that discernment is not simply a solitary act. It is not up to me. Which is why we gather together, praying the Spirit's annointing, the Spirit's vision, the Spirit's breath, to revive dry bones, to put wind in our sails, to inspire dreams and visions of what God's kingdom might look like on earth. 

And at the heart of this very act is prayer. 

Prayer. Listening for God. Listening for the subtle winds of Holy Spirit. So that we might hear the voice of Jesus say, "come unto me and rest." Come unto me, Jesus says. Come unto me, and rest in my love, as I rest in Creator's love. Rest in my love, as we seek to embody sabbath rest—through the pursuit of justice—in all that we do. 

This moment in our life as a church feels like a pre-Pentecost moment. As we look back, as we look at the journey, we see all of the goodness of our life with Jesus. As we look back, as we look at the road we've travelled, we notice the twists and turns, the highways and byways of life. We remember the difficult bits, including those moments we travelled without roads and without maps. We look back, and we appreciate what God has led us through—even if some of it has been hard. We look back and we reminisce. We tell and retell the stories of old. And sometimes we make up entirely apocryphal stories based on what we wish had happened. We try to make sense of it all. 

It's much more difficult to make sense of the future. It's much more difficult to point towards the open road, and to say "this is the way of the Spirit." Sometimes we can only know the road by walking. Sometimes we can only know the road by strapping on our walking shoes, calling on our friends, and setting out on pilgrimage, wondering where God might be along the way. 

Here we are in the days before Pentecost, and we're being asked to step out into the unknown. The wisdom of what was to become the church at Pentecost was to gather in one place. To break bread together. To pray together. To listen together, and to discern. We discern by listening for Holy Spirit. We discern by listening to one another. We discern by listening to our neighbours. We discern by listening to the cries of the world around us. 

On Friday, this is some of the work that our church will engage along with others from throughout the West Kootenay region—folks from Trail and Fruitvale and Salmo and Grand Forks and Greenwood and Rock Creek and Nelson and Kaslo and New Denver and Castlegar—all coming together to ask Holy Spirit, what's next. 

I don't know how everyone is feeling about that. I'm sure there is a wide mix of emotions and approaches to this day. And so today, I ask for your prayers. For all who attend. For the congregations and parishes they represent. And for our church, that we might be faithful in our listening and in our speaking, in our praying, and in our work. 

Would you join me in praying? 

A Prayer for Renewal

O God who knows the needs of the Church in every place:
by the light of your Holy Spirit, guide us
as we seek to respond faithfully to you in this time.

May we open our hands to the future you call us to;
May we open our hearts to those you are calling us to serve;
May we open our minds to new insight and new knowledge;
May we open our doors to go out towards those you would have us meet.

Lead us into your future together;
help us to build trust and resilience in our common life;
help us to anticipate and celebrate new possibilities.

We pray these things in the name of Jesus,
the one who invites us into the newness of life.


Every Blessing, 

Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Valhalla Parish Missioner