Surely the Lord is in this Place
On February 22nd and 23rd over 400 of us came together to explore how geography and mission collide. This year’s TrueCity conference will be memorable for many reasons from the powerful times of worship, to John Terpstra’s poetry, to the hundreds of conversations that were happening throughout our time together, we had a joyous, encouraging taste of what it means to be the Church in Hamilton.
For many of us it started when we walked into the sanctuary and took in the 120 foot painting of the escarpment that enfolded us within the Philpott sanctuary. Thanks to hours of loving creativity poured onto the paper by a group of artists from Eucharist Church and a number of other congregations, Hamilton geography came to life and prepared us well for our time together.
Friday evening’s session was a wonderful mix of poetry and singing and sharing and praying. We heard of the many diverse ways that churches involved in TrueCity are engaging our city on their own and together. Worshipping together in song had the Philpott sanctuary reverberating in a way that highlighted well the reality of our unity in Christ.
Starting out from Jeremiah 29, Connan Kublik challenged us on Friday evening to consider what “Putting the Gospel in Place” might look like in our lives. John Terpstra’s words, “I’ve become attached to a piece of geography,” was a launching off point as Conan encouraged us each to consider which pieces of geography are central in our lives. With the reality of how place is core to the biblical story and to the way the gospel free us to live fully, Connan exhorted us to live out this reality in daily practical ways such as being intentional about where we live and prayer walking. He gave us a powerful reminder that it is not the “million dollar ideas” that are most powerful in seeing God’s kingdom come, exhorting us not to despise the little things.
For many the highlight of the conference came unexpectedly on Saturday morning when a panel of five shared their stories of place–each one living out the reality of Christ’s love for Hamilton in a different neighbourhood and in very diverse ways, but each with a common passion to worship God by loving their neighbours and investing in their neighbourhoods. Phyllis Kokoski struck a chord that continues to resonate among us when she encouraged us to “bloom where we are planted.”
The remainder of our time Saturday was spent digging deeper through eight different breakout sessions offered in the morning and the afternoon. These ranged from Redeemer professor, Craig Bartholomew wonderful session that provided a broad sweep of the landscape of theology of place and examples of its profound implications in daily life to very focused sessions on engaging political realities, daily practices of presence, sustainability, and what place means on the margins of our culture.
- Seeing God’s hand all over the proceedings in so many ways, large and small.
- The sessions and the great atmosphere created by hundreds of Christians, all from different churches, all with a love for Hamilton, coming together to worship and learn how to better serve their city.
- I am encouraged just by being together, knowing that these people also love this city and are praying for it.
- I have a desire to get to know Hamilton better, to understand how I can fit in and serve this community. This conference is both an inspiration and an encouragement for me to continue this journey.
We are learning to be the Church in Hamilton and by the end of our weekend together we were able to say, “surely the Lord is in this place” and we are beginning to be open and aware of it.