We began our Classis Retreat Friday evening with four Redeemer Students leading in a time of worship. Our Theme was Inviting Authentic Community through the spiritual discipline of Story Telling. Dr. Syd Hielema led us through three sessions, i) anxiety with hands and fists somewhat clenched; ii) into a posture of receiving, with hands cupped open, palms before us; iii) into the posture of hands and arms lifted up to bless all around and praise God. “Sometimes I’m too busy doing God’s work, for God to do his work in me.” Ministry is often challenging, with leaders feeling fraught. Years ago Syd went on a Silent Retreat where he was instructed to spend 3 hours reading Psalm 23. It changed his life, inviting him to follow the good shepherd and not be in want. We were given time to pray through Psalm 23 ourselves, invited to release our grip and slowly open our hands enough to receive God’s blessings.
Saturday morning, with hands open, we were asked to share scripture passages that were most meaningful to us and tell why. We entered authentic community by telling our stories to one another, without even realizing it. We told why certain verses spoke to us and gave us strength along our journey (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:1-17). We were encouraged to be hosts of authentic community in our elders’ meetings, council meetings, small groups, youth meetings, and worship experiences. We were encouraged to give every person around the table, or in the room, an opportunity to speak, to find their voice, and share. Matthew 5:13 Jesus says; “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” Salt melts and floods foods with intensified flavor. How can we bring the best out in others, as salt on this earth?
The third session, on Saturday morning, had us raise our hands, called to be light. Syd called himself a coach who shepherds toward authentic community. He talked about 4 “A’s,”; 1) Authentic; Culturally authentic says: “This is who I am, take it or leave it.” Biblically authentic says “I’m a work in progress, I’m on a journey; Phil.1:6; “He who began a good work in me will carry it to completion.” 2) Awareness of self; arcs that influence us, themes running through our lives, eg. My cancer story; My sense of call; my burden for the lost; narratives are prominent throughout scripture. 3) Appropriate; Not everything that happens to us is appropriate for public consumption, but better served one on one, or in a small group. Finally 4) Available Opportunities; like 1 Corinthians 9:19-23; “Though I am free and belong to no one, I make myself a slave to everyone to win as many as possible.” We were challenged to be shepherds of the light, with hands raised high, blessing those around us and praising God in all we do. Classis Niagara engaged in a time of authentic community, blessing one another with each other.
Three workshops were announced by Dr. Syd Hielema offered through Faith Formation:
March 6 at Redeemer: Renegotiating Faith: Walking with Young Adults through a critical season in Faith Formation from 7:30 – 9:00 p.m.
March 30th, 9 am – 4 pm: Aging: The final Frontier; A one day conference related to aging and Ministry. Gibson Center, Markham (just off 404)
April 27th, Saturday: Youth and Mental Health: sponsored by CRC Disabilities Concerns Westdale Reformed Church in Hamilton.
From 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. we conducted the Business of Classis, working through the values of Authentic Community; Leadership Development; Disciples Making Disciples; and Covenant Relationships; and Prayerful Dependence on God. Darren Roorda asked Classis Niagara to help give direction to the discussion at the May Gathering Meeting in Edmonton Alberta. Dr. Robert Graham will be inaugurated as Redeemers fourth President on March 1st and announced a huge reduction in tuition for new students, from $17,000 down to just under $10,000 per year. The position of Brock University Chaplain has been given to Zac DeBruyne. Rev. Sid Couperus was elected to go to Synod June 14th to June 20th, along with Dan Baarda and Tena Dykhoorn as Elder Delegates. Classis Niagara is still looking for a deacon delegate to also attend.