For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. (Matthew 18:20, NRSV). This time, 500 came together, rooted in God’s love to be challenged and encouraged, to pray and to discern, to laugh and to cry. From May 19 to 22, women and a few men, from across Canada, and 15 international and ecumenical guests, gathered at The Sheraton Hotel and Conference Centre in Richmond Hill, ON.
Worship was a key part of the Gathering. On Friday, the Rev. Dr. Patricia Dutcher-Walls was our preacher. She reminded us that God is central but that God’s creation needs caretakers. Humans are to keep the land. Humans are also intimately connected to one another as God’s creation. We are to be rooted in God’s love and grounded in creation.
On Saturday, the Rev. Dr. Mona Scrivens spoke about prayers and the strength of prayers. She suggested that our prayers are often too small and too general. She reminded us how much God loves us and that we are to walk in victory because we know God loves us.
On Sunday morning, the Rev. Linda Ashfield challenged us to think about this passage. Her message was a message of hope. God’s people, during perilous times are called to act out the hope of God in action.
Our final worship service was on Monday morning.Our preacher, the Rev. Dr. Karen Horst, reminded us to abide in God. We must spend time with our Lord and we are most productive when we spend adequate time resting in God. We are also to bear fruit. We closed this time of worship with communion to strengthen us for the journey home.
During each worship service, we praised God and were encouraged in our singing by the Rev. Hugh Donnelly. His choice of songs, reminded us that we are a people, who both praise God and seek justice and inclusion.
On Friday afternoon, we enjoyed a wonderful Mission Fair, where we played, discussed, worked, and learned about 20 different mission organizations.
The afternoon was filled with lots of conversations and laughter and a big ‘thank you’ went out to all the organizations that participated.
We were challenged by our keynote speakers at the event. There was a last minute change as one of our keynote speakers, Dr. Mary Jo Leddy, was unable to attend due to illness. We were thankful when four of our international guests stepped up and prepared a wonderful presentation of the Tumekutana gathering on Saturday morning. Tumekutana is composed of members from 22 African countries. They gather every three years for learning, mentoring, encouragement, challenge, prayer, networking and solidarity.
Cindy Blackstock spoke to Gathering participants on Saturday night, she spoke about the need for change and for ordinary people to speak up for what is right.
Blackstock is a member of the Gitksan First Nation. Her organization brings together First Nation and non-Aboriginal peoples, providing resources to empower First Nations children, youth and families.
Jean Chamberlain Froese was the keynote speaker on Monday. She has lived part-time in Uganda for the past 12 years helping to save women who are dying from childbirth complications.
Chamberlain realized that to improve the care available to pregnant women in places like Uganda there had to be training and education for local leaders so they could speak up and ask for change. Save the Mothers, Chamberlain’s organization, is doing just that.
WORKSHOPS, FORUMS, AND FEASTING
The event also included a number of workshops and forums to teach and engage the participants. Participants learned about the work of the ARISE ministry (that reaches out to sex-trade workers in East Toronto); danced with Anointed Joy liturgical dance troupe; sang with the Rev. Hugh Donnelly; participated in Christian yoga to begin their day; and explored the theme scripture with the Rev. Dr. Emily Bisset.
We also feasted at three different banquets. On Friday night, at our welcome banquet, we celebrated those who travelled the farthest to get to The Gathering (three days!) and the participants who were the youngest (17) and the oldest (95). The Moderator of the 142nd General Assembly, the Rev. Douglas Rollwage, brought greetings and spoke of the work of women in the New Testament, and of the work that we are to continue.
Saturday evening’s banquet included the theme address given by Dr. Cindy Blackstock. Following dinner, we enjoyed the wonderful singing and dancing of Tribal Vision, an Aboriginal organization that teaches Aboriginal dance and music. Their delightful dialogue and dancing both informed and entertained us.
Finally, during Sunday evening’s banquet, we celebrated women of The Presbyterian Church as we awarded the Presbyterian Woman of Faith awards to three deserving women.
We look forward to seeing you all again in 2020! Save the date: May 15-18, 2020.
More photos can be found on flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/63744704@N03/albums/72157685336666025.