Re-Imagining church

Re-Imagining church

by Marcie Gibson

As staff at CCS, I am often on the lookout for events, especially close to home, that offer deeper thought, new networking, and fresh content for our programming. Last Friday and Saturday, I attended the ReImagine Conference, in Hamilton, ON, organized by the Parish Collective, in partnership with the UCC EDGE network, among others.

There was story-telling, workshops, curated conversations, display tables from groups such as Citizens for Public Justice, fabulous spoken word from artists including Heather Beamish and Randell Adjei, and soulful music led by Sunia Gibbs & Drew Brown.
Have you ever sung Peace Like a River in a minor key?

Bernadette Arthur facilitated a workshop on racism in Canada that  looked at how the colonial, religious and scientific roots of racism has affected perspectives, behaviours, and values in North America.

This is the second year of the conference, though my first experience, and I was quite impressed. In particular, I appreciated the racial diversity of the presenters and leadership (and the participants), and how that informed the content of the gathering. Donna Barber read from her new book, Bread for the Resistance: Forty Devotions for Justice People, and her partner Leroy Barber offered wisdom from his experience mentoring young people of colour engaged in community justice & church.

Many of the plenary sessions were a series of short story-telling and idea-sharings about new local initiatives engaging church in the community/world, and the world in church. (Sound diaconal / familiar?) One presenter was our very own student, Lisa Byer, who shared some of her personal journey with decolonization, and her ministry experience at St. Colomba House. Unfortunately, there was a noticeable absence of Indigenous content and participation in the event overall, and much of the discussion assumed an urban context. When we talk about church ‘in the neighbourhood’, we can’t assume a homogeneous experience of what a neighbourhood looks and acts like.

“Relationships are built at the speed of trust, and social change happens at the speed of relationships.” ~ Adriane Johnson-Williams

There were many gems of wisdom shared, and one presenter quoted Adriane Johnson-Williams, “Relationships are built at the speed of trust, and social change happens at the speed of relationships.” For me, participating was an exercise in trust. Some of the behaviours were more “culturally-evangelical” than I am used to. Some of the references unfamiliar. And yet, through it, I trusted Spirit to speak, and in so doing, relationships were built and strengthened. Thankfully, I was in good company with others who were curious; including CCS grads, continuing education students, and inter-denominational colleagues. A great cross-pollination, in an energetic and inclusive space. I will certainly look out for this next year, and encourage others to come with curiosity, critical analysis, and trust in the Spirit.


Marcie Gibson is CCS Program Staff with particular responsibility for Integration Year.