Last year I went to World Vision’s Church Leaders Forum and loved it. This year I went with Michelle Hardy, and Jacob Burma (former intern to Ken!) came too, and we all loved it!. :)
The guest speaker was Ken Shigematsu, who pastors Tenth Church in Vancouver. We found out that all proceeds from his first bestselling book - God In My Everything - went to World Vision (and other missions), and the same is true for his most recent book, Survival Guide for the Soul (which we all got a copy of, and any of you are welcome to borrow!).
Here are some reflections, in no particular order:
Being and doing - I like the existence of this conference in general, because it inherently communicates that paying special attention to the poor is part and parcel to the life of the church (i.e. integral to what we’re “majoring in” as disciples, not just an elective for those so inclined…). So I was surprised by a similar affirmation in this forum, which was that “reawakening to God’s presence” and internalizing God’s love for us are not just “luxuries” for those so inclined, but also just as integral to a meaningful life of service in solidarity with the poor. In other words, if I think of World Vision’s mission as primarily about doing (false dualism, but...), then Ken’s focus on being with God affirmed the inextricable relationship between doing and being, “faith and works,” action and contemplation, being loved and loving well.
“When we’re ‘full,’ our materialist cravings decrease” - I appreciated this straightforward reminder that one of the benefits of intentionally spending time with God is that some of our habitual drives for stuff, security, control and validation lose their power. Instead of going on a “diet’ to address all the self-and-neighbor-sabotaging patterns in my life, I can instead shift my attention to getting “full” on good stuff, God stuff. Sounds funner.
“Wearing the yoke of God’s love” - Probably the image Ken returned to the most in his talk was of learning to wear the yoke that Jesus wore, which, he suggested, was the love of the Father for him. That reminded me of Anne Lamott and Father Greg Boyle both recently quoting William Blake when describing the life task of learning to “bear the beams of love:”
And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love.
When I think of “bearing,” I usually think of pain, suffering or confusion - not bearing “love.” But indeed, learning to be a beloved of God takes practice, and involves a different kind of pain - the pain of being vulnerable, forgiven, implicated, included, trusted, trusting, and dependent. I was really moved by being in a setting where you’d think the emphasis would be on the need for “harvesters,” and instead attention was paid to the quality and integrity of the “yoked.”
In short, it was enriching, inspiring, and challenging. Everything they were probably hoping for.