Monday, February 11, 2013

weekend in Pinawa

I spent the weekend in Pinawa, Manitoba on the edge of a frozen lake with about 50 Vineyard leaders from across Canada.  We gathered at Wilderness Edge Retreat and Conference Centre, a venue built in the 60s to house scientists for Atomic Energy of Canada.  I will not make any bad jokes here about the similarities between nuclear scientists and Vineyard leaders, so if you want to pause and take a moment to compose a few yourself, go ahead.  It is impossible to summarise everything that went on there, but here are a few of the highlights according to me. 

Arriving in Winnipeg airport on Friday night
1.  The chocolate chip banana cake with butter cream cheese icing and the taco salad.  The food in the dining hall was good, hearty, and plentiful, and every mealtime we were always presented with a wide variety.  This, in many ways, was representative of our group.  The breadth and depth of experience, personality, passion, knowledge, strength, and skill that these people generously offered up was quite amazing.  While some offerings made my palate come alive more than others, there was no lack of good stuff to chew on and enjoy. The conversations over meal times were as much a part of the connecting, exchanging, and encouraging as any of the more formal meetings.  Discussing theological nuances over nachos was as memorable and important as confessing our shortcomings to each other over bread and grape juice (they ran out of wine by the time we got to the serving table).  I came away full of hope, fat with inspiration, and bursting with a renewed sense of camaraderie.

2.  Family stories.  These two themes, family and story, seemed to come up again and again during the course of the weekend.  I was reminded that we are all one big family: together we laugh at our crazy uncle and his antics, we graciously accept the pink slippers our aunt knits for us every year, we smile and shake our heads at the troublemaker cousins who will invariably break something, we love to sit by our grandpa's side and listen to stories from another time and place, we look forward to munching on our mother's homemade cinnamon buns (the best in the world!), we listen patiently to a sister who likes to talk and talk and talk, and we are glad to have an older brother who comes along just at the right time to help us retrieve something that is out of our reach.  We spent a fair amount of time hearing each other's stories, formally and informally, and by the time we got around to discussing a renewed vision statement on Saturday night, the love we had for each other coated every word of discussion, question, and disagreement.  It became obvious that we in the Vineyard do not want to be identified by a vision statement or statement of faith, but by our love for each other.  Nevertheless, work on a written statement continues as we seek to find a way to communicate our spiritual ethos precisely, succinctly, and effectively.

3.  Travel troubles.  The weekend seemed plagued by travel woes.  Over half of the group from the Atlantic region never made it due to a nasty storm that swept through Toronto and other parts of the East.  Many of the Ontario folks were delayed by a day.  Others experienced equipment failure and connection problems both coming and going which caused significant delays as well.  The effect of all this was tangible.  The schedule was rearranged somewhat to accommodate late arrivals and we were sad that so many voices were not present.  Every time someone arrived and walked into a meeting already in progress, we briefly stopped and cheered!  Because we are all spread across a vast country and don't see each other that often, our gatherings together are precious.  This weekend it seemed even more important not to take these connections for granted.  Many people spent a lot of time in airports and some were fortunate to be waiting together.  One of those delays meant that I got to eat onion rings and drink a diet Coke with some of my favourite people whom I hardly ever get to see.  We exchanged stories about how we met the love of our life, talked about the challenges of our everyday work, and imagined how hopes and dreams could be realised.   

There is more I could say, especially about the renewed interest in being good neighbours (literally), of love being our only motivator (never seeing people as a project), learning to be authentic in all we do, becoming mindful about how and why we develop certain patterns of leadership, and embracing change as we learn to love and lead more like Jesus.  Perhaps another time.  Right now, I have to finish the laundry and get some reading done for class tomorrow.   Perhaps others that were there want to add to my musings.

Matte from Montreal

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