It it so good to be with family. That is the overwhelming sentiment that I feel every time the Ontario Vineyard pastors and leaders gather together. In fact, that’s the overwhelming sentiment at any of these gatherings of the shepherds and shapers of our movement.
This past week, pastors and leaders of the various Vineyard congregations across Ontario spent three days together in Bancroft, ON. We welcomed to the table David Ruis, who recently returned back to Canadian soil with Anita. They now live in Kelowna. David brought a wealth of riches for us, speaking life into those formational values that make us distinct as a movement, and valuable to both the world and the larger expression of the Church: contending for the radical middle; the beautiful (and sometimes tense) interplay of worship and justice; inviting the poor as equal members in our family; standing on a firm theological centre while reaching out, open handed, for deep Holy Spirit encounter; moving playfully with the Spirit while avoiding the temptation to hype.
Much depth of relationship happened over the meal table. There was no trace of divisive cliques among this diverse group. The company around each table changed every meal. Old friendships were sustained and new friendships formed. Our stories, passions, concerns and mutual histories mingled over good food. To that I say: Yay!
There was celebration for the goodness of the past year as we shared what God has been doing among us. There was planning for next year’s Vineyard National Gathering, which will take place in Cambridge on July 27-30, 2014 -- save the dates! There was also challenging dialogue as we discussed what the future looks like and how to navigate well in these historic uncharted waters. And of course there was mourning as we came alongside Sandy Caldwell in the loss of her husband and our friend, David. David was with us last year and his absence was keenly felt.
The take away for me this year is that there is health in the bones of this Vineyard movement. Don’t get me wrong, these are challenging times. We feel the effects of cultural upheaval, tight economics and past missteps, but there is something fundamentally healthy and vibrant in our communities. We are in good company. The best times are ahead of us.