“The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists” Japanese Proverb Plant your roots in Christ And let Him be the foundation of your life. Be strong in your faith just as you were taught And be grateful. Colossians 2:7
As we ponder what the Father has been cultivating in the “heart soil” of the Canadian Vineyard over the past several years, the word “resilience” comes to mind. This word, drawn from the Latin “resilio,” means to bounce back. It’s a hope filled word that speaks of the beautiful ability to accept and rise to the challenge of adversity and the inevitable shifts that come in the undulating seasons of life and community.
‘A resilient person is like bamboo in a hurricane, bending rather than breaking, being flexible and adaptable rather than rigidly resistant. Buildings such as bridges and high buildings are resilient when they allow for movement rather than holding together rigidly' (Warwick Wellbeing Support Services – University of Warwick)
Bamboo is three times stronger than timber and stronger than steel in its ability to resist breaking or splitting under tension. It has many facets that contribute to this strength and resilience, one of those being the nature of its interconnected root system. How grateful we are for these last five years as a national family where we have seen the Lord restoring to us our sense of “we” that goes far deeper than the structural and strategic ways we have reformed and into the level of organic life and love that is nourished and sustained in our roots. From our beginning national campaign “From Silos to Integration” in ’15 to our more recent “Health Begets Health” in 2018; the release of “Why Vineyard?” and the resolution of our eight year national process around our understanding of human sexuality, we have seen our “below the surface” root system gain strength. In a remarkable way the stretching and strengthening that have driven our roots deep in these last years will be what carries us as a movement into and through whatever this next season holds.
As we grapple with ways to “stay connected” over these next months in the face of COVID-19 and whatever other threats we face in local, regional and national contexts, perhaps our innovation in leadership will be more about discovering ways that continuously reveal where and how we are already connected vs. trying to create something new or even unreal – at its worst – pretending.
The danger of the social media and virtual world that we will now be leaning into more than ever, is the temptation to present an illusion of who we are rather than simply being real. Add to this the danger of the influence of a theology that relies on over realized eschatology, and a potential of denial being equated with faith, we could have a recipe for disaster, especially as we face a pandemic such as we are currently experiencing. Let us utilize the technology and ingenuity required in these times to be a space where we can hold onto being honest, transparent and simple. Let us model prayer and prayer ministry that is saturated with hope and anchored to the “now and not yet” sanity of our kingdom theology. To reach for anything other than this at this stage will only increase anxiety in your leadership and strategies, rather than allow you to be the non-anxious presence required in this current scenario. Don’t be intimidated or paralyzed by a lack of gear, facility and lighting equipment. A smart phone, a living room and a real story can be just as impacting as any high production presentation. A secure, loving and accessible pastoral presence which knows that the peace and healing needed in these times is within our reach, is what is needed now.
Our Vineyard sensibilities and values have always had us leaning into the more organic and contemplative expressions of community and faith - to reach for the simplicity, security and courage that a kingdom come and coming brings. Let these times be no different.
Be real. Be present. Be true.
You may have seen this poem Lockdown that has gone viral over the last week. Penned by Irish Capuchin Franciscan Brother Richard Hendrick on March 13th, 2020, it captures so much of the resilience and deeps roots we are to have as a national community right now. Yes there is fear. Yes there is isolation. Yes there is panic buying. Yes there is sickness. Yes there is even death. But They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise you can hear the birds again. They say that after just a few weeks of quiet the sky is no longer thick with fume but blue and grey and clear. They say that in the streets of Assisi people are singing to each other across the empty squares, keeping their windows open so that those who are alone may hear the sounds of family around them. They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know is busy spreading fliers with her number through the neighbourhood so that the elders may have someone to call on. Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples are preparing to welcome and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary.
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting. All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way. All over the world people are waking up to a new reality, to how big we really are. To how little control we really have. To what really matters. To Love.
So we pray and we remember that yes, there is fear. But there does not have to be hate. Yes, there is isolation. But there does not have to be loneliness. Yes, there is panic buying. But there does not have to be meanness. Yes, there is sickness. But there does not have to be disease of the soul. Yes, there is even death. But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now. Today, breathe. Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic. The birds are singing again. The sky is clearing. Spring is coming, And we are always encompassed by Love. Open the windows of your soul and though you may not be able to touch across the empty square - Sing. Go deep. Breathe deep. Love deep. Resist the shallow space of fear. Just as COVID-19 limits the capacity for deep breath, so fear steals our oxygen, our life. Just as this virus creates isolation, so too, fear. Don’t give in. Push your roots deeper and draw nourishment and hope from the deep love of Christ. He is enough. You have what it takes. Let us lead well. Lead us lead lovingly. Let us lead transparently.
David and Anita