During the last weekend of May, 2011 Ross Bliss and Christine Wilson represented the Diocese of New Westminster at the Vital Church Planting West Conference
sponsored by the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton
and The Wycliffe College Institute of Evangelism
Approximately 200 people from Alberta, Saskatchewan,Yukon and B.C. from several denominations engaged together in worship and learning at this wonderful, life-giving, spirit-filled event designed to explore different ways of ‘doing’
The weekend consisted of four keynote addresses, three worship services, and four workshop times. The participants were asked to select workshops to attend from several options offered. It was also an opportunity to meet some wonderful people and share good food together.
Thursday evening began with an experiential ‘interface’ worship service which featured liturgical dance and an interactive exhibit depicting Jesus’ ‘Journey to the Cross.’ St. Paul’s Anglican Church was draped in colourful silk with paintings adorning the walls. During the service an artist created a painting of the worship and all were invited to contribute words which will be used to compose a poem.
Friday afternoon, ‘Standing Stones’ infused Cree symbols and song into a Christian worship ceremony seeking wisdom in aboriginal stories and scripture. During this worship, those gathered asked for God’s healing in water and prayer and celebrated God in their lives through the sharing of bannock and berries.
The workshops discussed ‘Church Planting’ focusing on the key elements of starting a new church and models of ‘Fresh Expressions’
designed to reach out and build community with people who are not part of the Church. One workshop entitled ‘The Person is the Plant’ was about different ways individuals can live out the life of Christ where we are and as we are.
Throughout the weekend something that resonated was the way two different streams, ‘Church Planting’ from a more charismatic evangelical perspective and ‘Fresh Expressions’ from an Anglican perspective, really came together. The general feeling of the group was that the recognition of this call to mission goes beyond ecumenism into the heart of what unites all Christians.
And at that heart is God calling us to share Christ’s light and love in the world. In the words of one conference facilitator,
“God actions in creation are missionary. The dance of the persons of God was so beautiful God created out of love in order to share it. Our natural response to God’s missionary action is to love God with all our heart, and to love our neighbours as ourselves. Wherever we go we are the Church so we must be missional -- not ‘must’ in terms of obligation or necessity, but simply because as Disciples of Christ we cannot do otherwise.”