CCS at Epiphany Explorations 2015

Last week CCS Principal Maylanne Maybee attended Epiphany Explorations for the first time. This is a familiar event, even a ritual, for many people in the United Church, but for herit was a first – an intense three-day event organized by First Metropolitan United Church in Victoria, B.C. with outstanding speakers on theology, ministry, and the future of the Church. She was pleased and proud that a CCS student, Don Evans, opened the gathering with prayer and words from the people who gather as family for shelter, food, community, and warmth at Our Place, where Don is the director.

Maylanne reflects on the event:

Maylanne Maybee“The underlying theme of Epiphany Explorations this year was elusive, but fragments from a prayer by Stephen Orchard helped me find a common thread among the different speakers.

We thought we knew where to find you…

The speakers’ messages were disturbing. We don’t know where to find God these days. Certainly not in the usual places! Peter Rollins (writer, storyteller from Northern Ireland) challenged us to embrace faith AND doubt, to think of Christ as a trickster who is known by absence, by what we lack and avoid, as much as by presence, by what we long for and seek.

David Felten (co-creator of the study series, Living the Questions) told us it’s time to let go of antiquated theologies like original sin or substitutional atonement that arose in a very different age and context. Granted, we need new language, a new cosmology. Yet for me, transformation is not just a matter of deconstructing old truths, it’s about finding new and larger truths that make meaning in our own time.

Wise God, give us wisdom.

We thought we had laid you safe in the manger…

Anthony Bailey (congregational minister from Ottawa) grounded us in concrete stories of struggle and hope he found in communities he visited across North America that are living a spirituality of engagement in solidarity with others, especially those at the edges. His analysis was crisp and hard-hitting – we are a people of privilege who cry for justice from our places of comfort. That’s something that needs to change.

Just and righteous God, give us justice and righteousness.

The women who spoke were clear and authentic and powerful – Lois Wilson, Sandra Beardsall, Mary-Wynne Ashford. I especially appreciated Sandra’s theme of Talking to Strangers – A Spirituality of the Ecumenical Life. Strangers, like ecumenical partners, she said, can be threatening, annoying, or gift-bearing. Her words helped to open a doorway for an Anglican like me to enter a United Church room and find a place for conversation and growth without having to apologize for the tradition and peculiarities of my own denominational “tribe”.

So where else would we expect to find you but in the ordinary place with the faithful people, turning the world to your purpose through them?

Tea with CCS friends
Tea with CCS friends

Tea with CCS friendsThe best part of my five day Exploration was meeting with friends and graduates of CCS. Megumi Saunders somehow found the time and energy in the midst of the chaos at First Met to buy flowers, find CCS napkins, phone friends, fetch groceries, slice cakes and melons and round up guests for an afternoon tea on Wednesday and a breakfast on Saturday – about thirty or more all told. Faithful, joyful people whose diaconal ministry shone through their actions and stories of welcoming, seeking justice, healing, and helping. I am so grateful to be part of such a company.

Bring us to that manger, to that true rejoicing
which will make wisdom, justice, and righteousness alive in us.”

[Prayer by Stephen Orchard, England. All the Glorious Names, United Reform Church Prayer Handbook, London]

Gathering of CCS friends at Epiphany Explorations in Victoria.
Gathering of CCS friends at Epiphany Explorations in Victoria.