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Last Thursday and Friday, I went up to St. Andrew’s Hall on UBC campus for the Cultivate Church Planting Conference. Here a group of us from multiple denominations gathered to learn, talk, worship, and commiserate over the experience of church planting and non-standard expressions of church community.

The keynote speaker was Stefan Paas, a Dutch theologian and missiologist currently employed at Vrije University in Utrecht, who spoke bluntly about mission work in a post-Christian context, and how the old ways no longer served us – and maybe were never that enlightened in the first place! We heard from many others who detailed their experiences of planting different kinds of communities, everything from actual churches to a garden which drew people from all over the neighbourhood to gather and cultivate nutritious produce and lovely flowers. We talked about the complexities of serving in institutions driven by financial anxiety and conservatism around denominational purity in a world that increasingly deems denominations confusing if not obsolete. We talked about the restrictions those institutions placed on our work, some of which are useful for flourishing, and some of which separate people from an authentic experience of Christ.

It was a great gathering...but also draining and sometimes even frustrating as we found ourselves up against the same constraints with no advice for each other except to hold fast to Jesus.

I skipped the last day, though, because I had another special event with my friends from Quantum Care, Masa Kateb and Eda Ertan. May 4th was World Labyrinth Day, and we had arranged a partnership event with Jane’s Walk at St. Paul’s in the West End.

For three hours I played, sang, and held sacred space with my friends while people from all walks of life came through the door curious about what it meant to walk a labyrinth. There were all genders, all creeds, all faiths, all ages.

Eda and I have made musical oblation like this four or five times now, and it happens with no rehearsal or set plan. It feels so uncomplicated and...natural.

All too often we become obsessed about curating sacred experience. The institution builds walls between people and the holy. But in that little wooden building on Saturday, it felt like all of those had been pulled back and away as an Anglican priest and a Muslim community organizer/yoga instructor helped to paint a soundscape for prayer.

It’s not that we shouldn’t ever craft or plan liturgy, or have a roadmap or protocols for a community to follow. But perhaps we need to admit to ourselves that God is the one who sows the seeds, and sends rain and sun. All we can do is cultivate, and while there is skill involved, we have to admit our humility in the work.

And sometimes – like the clematis on my balcony that flourished when I left it alone – we just need to step back and allow God’s Spirit to move.


Photo: Eda Ertan (right) and me at the Labyrinth walk. Screenshot from a video taken by Masa Kateb