The update from the Anglican Church of Canada for April 27th had this headline: “National Surprised by the Spirit initiative launches.” Curious, I watched the video. It was our Primate, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, with an invitation for us to gather in conversation circles to “listen for the voice of the Spirit in your midst.”
It’s not the first time we have been invited by a Primate to gather in conversation circles. Towards the end of his term as primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz encouraged people to gather in an initiative entitled “Heartbeat of the Church.” Based in a passage from John 15, we gathered and shared our heartfelt prayer for our Church. It was a moment to reflect and give thanks, and to find hope.
Fast forward a few years, we find ourselves in a very different world and situation. We are still in the grips of a pandemic, and although an end to the severe lockdowns is in sight, we will never be the same. As our Primate says, “This has been a time of extraordinary upheaval in our lives and the life of our churches. It has also been a time of discovery. We discovered the pain of many losses—personal and communal. We discovered that we are more resilient and more creative than we may have previously thought. We discovered God in our midst—and we have been Surprised by the Spirit.”
So we are invited to gather—in groups of 4 or 5 in parishes, communities, synods, or other gatherings; we are asked to come together. Much of that gathering may need to be either outside or online—a different reality from a few years ago. But there are some elements that are the same; it will be in a context of prayer and scripture and we will talk together about where we see God in our midst. This time our questions are:
1. In what ways has our community of faith felt lost or struggled to see the Spirit?
2. What has surprised you over the past year?
3. What has our community of faith learned from the experience of this past year?
4. What questions are we being called to wrestle with?
5. What hopes for the future and signs of new life is the Spirit showing us?
Having wrestled with these questions, we then distill our thoughts by answering:
1. What is one learning you would like to share?
2. What is one question you would like others to wrestle with as well?
3. What is one hope you would like to offer?
The anglican.ca website gives clear instructions about how to share your “sparks” with others. As it says, “Thanksgiving 2021, we’ll come together to witness the surprises which our conversations have revealed.”
How appropriate that it be for Thanksgiving! As we read in Philippians 4:6, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Thanks, not the pandemic, will have the last word.