When the FMCIC shifted from an annual General Conference meeting to our current pattern, meeting once every three years, World Conference required that we still find a way to connect annually. The solution was an annual Regional Gathering. In 2019, for instance, we held 12 Regional Gatherings across the country. This year it was a hybrid event where Pastor Networks gathered with their respective delegates. In addition, there were virtual breakout rooms for delegates and pastors who could not attend in person. The event’s goal was to bring some updates about FMCIC, but the focus was connection, discussion, and to hear how we are doing and pray.
The feedback we received from Network and Breakout room leaders is consistent. Pastors are tired. Churches are unsure who will return on a Sunday, who has left, and how to rate their church health. We grieve those who have passed on during COVID, and those who have left our churches. We grieve the damaging conflict in our families and church families over vaccinations, masks, convoys, politics and theological matters. These conflicts have caused hurt and worse. We look forward to what God has for us, but we understand that dreaming and planning require energy.
The question is, how do we move forward?
We lamented together on April 2, which is a prayerful acknowledgement of all things lamentable.
Next, we must confess. Confession is a prayerful acknowledgement of our sins or hurts that we have held on to. The declaration is that we no longer want to be corrupted by our own sin, or the poison of holding on to sin acted on us and that we desire “truth in the inmost place” so that we can have a “pure heart.”
Lament, confession and a prayer for a right heart. Pray Ephesians 4:1-7 that as a people of “peace” we will be “humble, gentle, patient and forbearing.” Do not race past these words; each of these words demands your full and careful attention. For instance, consider God’s patience, as He is, in fact, a patient God. He is patient with sinful nations, He is patient as He waits for one more person to come to know Him, He was patient with His people Israel, and He is patient with you and me. Now ask, is the patience you show others anything like the rich patience He shows me? And, how would this type of God-patience serve the Church well as we have difficult conversations?
Lament, confession, right heart and a prayer for a “new song.” This is a prayer that acknowledges that I like old ways or my ways, but as a missionary in Canada (that is who you are if you are a follower of Jesus), I must prepare my heart to be open to new things. The purpose of these new things is to introduce people to Jesus. The Quakers prayed a “prayer of indifference,” which was a prayer that “not my will or my ways be done, but what God would want for us.” I pray I will be “indifferent” to everything except God’s voice. This is a brave prayer because people who pray this way may need to surrender their styles, tastes, and religious habits.
If each Free Methodist lamented, confessed, and prayed for a right heart and a new song, we would be poised to become the Church Canada needs!
Rev. Dr. Cliff Fletcher | Bishop, Free Methodist Church in Canada