Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Coffee Clash - Eleanor Shepherd

 How many people have the opportunity to pastor the congregation where their own faith was nurtured?  I am fortunate to find myself in that situation today.
  In the years between, our congregation has gone through a significant journey, with times of difficulty and loss and times of growth and rebirth.  Yet through it all the light of God’s love has continued to shine through those who compose it.
This month our congregation will celebrate the new beginning that we are experiencing as we have recently moved from the rented facility where we spent the last seven years to a newly renovated multi-purpose building where we can invite the community to be a part of what is happening.
For our dedication and opening ceremonies at Thanksgiving, many people who have been a part of our congregation in the past are coming home to be with us and join us in seeing the new things that God is doing among us.
This occasion has presented the opportunity for many of us to reflect on our memories about why this church is so dear to us.  We are collecting the stories to share with each other.  This prompted me to do my own reflecting.
I came to Montreal as a university student, with my parents, when my Dad was named as the regional director for The Salvation Army in Quebec  and Eastern Ontario.  In The Salvation Army Montreal Citadel congregation I soon found my place as a member of a group that met on Sunday mornings for lively discussion and debate.  We called it the Coffee Clash.
The leaders of the group were a married couple with young children.  They prepared coffee for us and made a few introductory comments on a particular subject.  Then they gave us the opportunity to express our thoughts and opinions on the subject.  It was a great way to bring out the questions that we had about our faith and whether it was relevant to our current experiences.
The group consisted of young adults who were finishing high school or starting university or a career.  We were leaving behind many of the assumptions that we had made as children and young adolescents and were testing which ones we could hold on to as we moved into maturity.
What we discovered as we thought through some of the questions raised was that the answers were more complex than we imagined.  Things were not black and white but there were many shades of grey and many values conflicts that had to be resolved.
One of the most encouraging aspects of this experience for me was to discover that the adult leaders who encouraged us to think through questions of faith admitted to us that at their stage in life they did not have all the answers.  They were still learning and growing.  It was at this time, that I began to realize that faith is a journey.
I had always thought that adults had their faith all figured out into neatly packaged answers for every question.  It seemed impossible to me that I would ever live long enough to arrive at that point.  Now I found that I did not have to.  By the authenticity of a couple who were genuine about their own adult faith, I learned that I could spend the rest of my life seeking and learning and growing.  That is what keeps faith fresh and relevant.  With each new question that comes my way today, I remember this primary lesson from Coffee Clash and I am grateful for leaders and peers who taught me as we shared together.
Word Guild Award
Word Guild Award


Peter Black said...

My apologies Eleanor, for butting in on your post date (I mistakenly posted today instead of tomorrow).
Congratulations to you on your congregation's milestone celebration!
Your 'coming home' story has a wistful, evocative appeal. I praise God for how He has guided your steps and is using you in His service, today. ~~+~~

Eleanor Shepherd said...

Thanks, Peter.
I am so glad you did. I was worried because I was late today and ran into problems. It was not as complete as I wanted it to be so now I am at my home computer and I am going to try to fix it up. Thanks for doing yours.

Peter Black said...

Thanks Eleanor for your kind response.
I like your post changes; looks good.
What a fine camera shot of the congregation; it shows a good cross-generational mix.
Every blessing to you and all. ~~+~~

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