It is fitting that we are just a week away from Easter Weekend. We at Urban Abbey have experienced this past week the death of a dream for a vulnerable population of women - a house they could finally call a safe home destroyed by fire. But we have also experienced the resurrection power of God's love as beauty is arising from the ashes.
Our morning service was a reminder from Psalm 107 about the psycho-dynamic space we find ourselves in when we make anything other than God the great passion and love of our life. We then had the opportunity to remember Patrick who escaped slavery in Ireland only to return as an impassioned evangelist. Patrick trained twelve followers who not only brought worship of Christ to the Irish Isle, but also to mainland Europe. A story of escape from the prison of slavery: to freedom: to willingly allow his great love for Christ enslave his heart: to bringing the presence of Jesus to the Celtic peoples. In celebration of St. Patrick's Day we shared a delicious Irish Stew and the company of wonderful friends!
Even though the artist studio is not quite up and running yet, there is still plenty of creative work going on at the abbey. There is an 8' by 10' mosaic of the Rublev Trinity underway as well as plans in the works for adding rich creative elements to various of our environments. The current focus is designing the creative art for an indoor play centre for 2 to 5 year olds that will be imaginative and fun; an inviting space they can come, especially in the long winter months, to tear about in. Thematically centred around a hobbit hole playhouse, some planned for features are a tricycle riding track, large sandbox, rope bridge, decorative murals, and tree houses for reading and drawing. It has been great fun and a great challenge to research potential layouts. It will be exciting to watch the project develop, but for now it is only a stack of papers with scribbles all over them.
Urban Abbey is incredibly blessed to be part of a movement called the Anglican Mission in Canada. This mission society offers incredibly rich resources to her family of churches. An example of this is relational connection to great giants in the faith - humble, wise pilgrims who have walked through deep waters and still journey forward.
Archbishop Kolini of Rwanda spiritually led his nation through one of the greatest national tragedies of our time. An outspoken advocate for Christ and for healing, Kolini played a significant role in the peace process of post-genocidal Rwanda. He is an example of the kind of leader and mentor young clergy require..
It would seem self-evident that brave, courageous and God-mindful mentors are absolutely key to dynamic growth in young clergy. And, for this, and many other reasons, Urban Abbey is profoundly thankful that their young staff have access to such experientially-rich reflective practitioners. However, such role models are key not only to the spiritual formation of the pastor but also to the discipleship and thriving of the entire congregation.
On November 16, 2016, Macleans magazine published the results of a study on Canadian mainline congregations. It reported that Presbyterian, Anglican, United Church of Canada and Lutheran churches are, for the most part, crumbling into death.. A ray of hope does, however, exist. A small percentage of growing churches is emerging from the rubble and a correlated variable that indicates for growth is the presence of orthodox and conservative-oriented clergy.
What is it about a clergy person that accelerates growth in the congregations that are flourishing? The researchers in this study attributed growth to two primary factors: conservative orthodoxy alongside passionate orthopraxy (“growth was because of what they and their members did”). Kevin Flatt1, one of the researchers on this project stated, “Perhaps congregations come to mirror their clergy over time, as the clergy ‘pull’ them to their positions.”
How interesting! Perhaps one of the primary functions of mature mentors is the embodiment of lived truth.
“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our own lives as well, because you had become dear to us” 1Thess 2:8
1Kevin Flatt is professor of church history at Hamilton’s Redeemer University College.
Urban Abbey is incredibly privileged to be part of a larger family called the Anglican Mission in Canada.