Even the Sparrows

Sleepy day in the truck.  I was praying, tucked away in the back, but realized that my praying was turning into nodding (and possibly drooling) so I grabbed my guitar, and perched on the lip of the truck.

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I love the little birds that hop and peck on the sidewalk outside the truck.  We have a box of Cheerios on board, and I often throw a handful onto the street, just to see their delighted response.  So there I am, contemplating the birds, and contemplating the other “sparrows” that flit about the truck, and often nest a while inside.  The scriptures draw the analogy between the sparrows and the poor, and it seemed to me to be an apt one.

So, for the first time in a long time, I began to play, sing, and write.

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Even the Sparrows

Even the sparrows find a place near your altar,

Even the wanderers who roam.

Even the fatherless are embraced by the Father

We’re coming home, we’re coming home.

The table is set

We will sit down

Surrounded by friends

And feast….

Birthing and groaning better describe the process than the word “songwriting”.  It may sound weird, but songs roll around my insides, and become my prayers.  I feel the weight of them, the rush and swirl.  I carry them for days, sometimes weeks.  So this is what I am carrying now.

The next time I was at the truck, one of our new truck friends brought by a new little buddy of his, to introduce him to me.

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Seemed appropriate.

Obed House of Prayer in Victoria, B.C.

I first met Mary and Doug at the National HOP Summit in Winnipeg.

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“We’ve just been appointed Directors of the Obed House of Prayer. We’ve been HOP Directors now for about a week!”

“Might as well jump off the deep end,” I grinned.

We hit it off right away. Even liked the same books!

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Red Moon Rising just wrecked us, and set us on the path to the House of Prayer.”

It made sense then, when I next visited the west coast, to go visit the Obed House of Prayer in Victoria.

I spent the afternoon on the beach with Mary and Doug, praying, chatting about all things House of Prayer, watching the curious seal that kept swimming by to investigate us, and telling bad seal puns. “It’s God’s seal of approval!”

Later in the evening, we went to their prayer facility on, wait for it…

Obed street.

There I met other members of the community.

There was Jeremy, with a cherubic grin, and hair buzzed into a Mohawk. He is a frontline street worker, bringing food and the presence of Jesus to the transient and gang related youth in the city.

I met Stuart, a local pastor who had given over his sanctuary for Obed’s use all week long. He and several members of Obed demonstrate their love for Jesus by serving the city and cleaning out the houses of local hoarders. A job that the city couldn’t afford to do, and couldn’t find anyone to do. I heard stories of them climbing over four foot walls of garbage, cleaning inches of sludge off bathroom floors, and making a birthday cakes for one of their clients.

After coffee, strawberries and conversation, someone pulled out a guitar and we got down to business.

Almost immediately, the sweetness of His presence descended on us.

They weren’t in a rush, but just lingered quietly in His presence. Hushed and reverent. As a community, they had a tender sensitive posture towards The Lord. Loving Him and knowing they are loved by Him. They were as equally open and tender hearted to me as well, making me feel very loved and welcome.

The Biblical meaning of the word Obed is worship and service.

They are, in my estimation, aptly named. And I look forward to a long friendship.

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Avoiding the Potholes: Advice for the New Monastic and House of Prayer Movement

I’m off to Vancouver again!  This time, I’m attending a three day retreat for practitioners, theologians, and writers in the New Monastic movement, many of whom I have never met before.  In preparation for the meeting, I’m reading some of their books so I will have a sense of the conversation to date.

I’m really enjoying Seek the Silences with Thomas Merton: Reflections on Identity, Community, and Transformative Action by Charles Ringma.

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I find Merton a bit lofty and hard to understand, but Ringma with his Reformed sensibilities brings him down into my orbit.  The book is comprised of short reflections on Merton’s teaching, and has become a lovely addition to my daily quiet time.

Another book I read was Living Faithfully in a Fragmented Word by Jonathan R. Wilson.

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Wilson is very much an academic, and at points I thought my little brain might explode, but I found some of his conclusions at the end of the book easier to grasp.

Wilson outlines some potential potholes – dangers and hazards for the New Monastic (I jumble the House of Prayer movement in with this, and feel like they apply equally to us as HOPs) movement.  Here they are in bite sized chunks:

1.  Communal Egotism – it could be very tempting for us as prayer and justice communities, to think that we are God’s gift to the church and to the world.  In one sense, we have to live as a prophetic witness in lifestyles radically reoriented to prayer, mission and justice, but we need to do so in meekness, bringing our egos to the cross.

2.  Utopianism – Bonhoeffer comments that idealism is the enemy of community.  We think that somehow we can get things right where the church has got it wrong.  The reality is that the close sharing of life in communities is very challenging.  We can hide our sin when aloof to one another, but when we live in deep community we are confronted with it at every turn.

3.  Romanticism – we can look back at the history of the prayer movement or monasticism with rose colored glasses, and miss the reality that within them there was mess, controversy, and many practices that did not survive the test of time.  We must not be daunted by the messiness and uncertainty of following the Holy Spirit into a new thing.  We must not sugar coat or romanticize the struggle.

4.  Utilitarianism – we can fall into the error of thinking that our way of life is a useful way to live in a fragmented world.  This is not a way to “make our lives better”, says Wilson.  This is a way to form life faithful to the gospel.

5.  Pelagianism – we can think that the formation and faithfulness of our communities “depends upon human ability and effort to  the exclusion of God’s grace.”  Symptoms of this include anxiety, blaming, resentment, overwork, Sabbath breaking, etc.

The advantage of so many having gone before us in the New Monastic/House of Prayer movement, is that we have the blessing of being able to learn from their known failure paths.  We might forge some new ones of our own (eeek), but at least we have been informed and enriched by their journey.

 

 

Weber Christmas Newsletter

Just in case you’re not on our email list for our quarterly missionary newsletter, here it is in blog form!
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Everything Old is new Again
Our trip to the British Isles was a valuable time of researching old and new monastic communities in England, Scotland and Ireland. The Celtic monastic model has much to inform the modern prayer movement. Unlike the remote and cloistered Roman monasteries, the Celts situated their lives of prayer in the centre of their communities. Celtic monasteries became hubs of prayer, hospitality, learning and creativity, and launching pads for justice and missions. This is particularly relevant to GOHOP in this season, as in the heart of Hamilton, we are exploring these expressions with an ever widening group of friends from churches across the city.
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On the Home Front at the Community House
Worship Jams.
Daily Evening Prayer.
Lively conversations around the dinner table with our varied and many guests.
Spiritual Direction in the “Upper Room”.
New friends crashing overnight on couches.
And of course, Spaghetti Tuesday!
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The Blog
They say that storytellers create culture. Although I (Jill) have been blogging for a few years already, we sensed that in this season, storytelling was going to become more strategic in shaping the prayer movement locally and beyond. Consequently, I have upped my blogging to five days a week, and through my writing am exploring the themes of New Monasticism. You can click on the link below, see the blog, and even subscribe so that you can receive it daily.
www.gohopchick.wordpress.com
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Kirk & Bert Web Designs
Kirk has been feeling for some time that he wanted to pick up some work to supplement our income. He’s researched and taught himself web design and this month he completed his first commercial web site for a client! He’s been enjoying the creative aspects of the work, and loving working from home where Bert can supervise him. In addition, the work gives Kirk the flexibility he needs to pastor our Community House, run and host Spaghetti Tuesday, work with the Salvation Army Soup Truck, and help with the Chapel at Mission Services. And of course, oversee nightwatch for our 24/7 prayer events. So if you know anyone who needs a website developed, connect them with Kirk!
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We’ve Got a Wide Bench!
We are very grateful for the group of extraordinary men and woman that God has brought to GOHOP. On our core team we have three seminarians, three ministers, and now a Doctor of Theology! We are teaching in homes, churches and ministries across the city, running our second year of the “Studies in New Monasticism” Internship, and mentoring many exciting young leaders in Hamilton. We are also helping to launch “Lectio House”, an urban retreat centre in Hamilton. I (Jill) find myself in a season of “quarterbacking” this fine team, making sure they have all the resources and support they need, developing networks and charting the course for the future.
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Of course, none of this would be possible without your partnership in prayer and financial support. If you would like to invest in the prayer movement in Hamilton or beyond, you can give online at www.canadahelps.org or email us at jill@gohop.ca. It’s been twelve years of full time prayer missions for us, and God has been unceasingly faithful to provide. Thanks so much for your part in that!

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Urban Missions and Sustainable Rhythms

I feel good.

Better than I have in a long time.

And it’s the routines,

The rhythms of sustainability that have brought me into this spaciousness,

Where the boundary lines are set in pleasant places.

I walk every day.

Take my vitamins.

Learning to drink more water.

I rise before dawn, nestle into my prayer chair. Journal, read, pray for a couple hours before my day begins.

Most days I’m in bed at the crack of 9:15, just after our household evening prayers.

Kirk and I have a “family meeting” weekly. Just the two of us, checking in with each other and talking about life and ministry.

Followed up with a date night. We still hold hands. :o)

I take two days off a week. Back to back. A proper weekend.

Consisting of a day of preparation and a sabbath.

I bake and do felting.

Working quietly with my hands.

Sounds a bit rigid, routinized.

But is allowing me more freedom than I could ever have imagined.

Carving space to allow my soul to be nurtured and prosper.

I can breathe now.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

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Celebrating Abraham Madrandele

Last Saturday we had a celebration at the Vine for our beloved Abraham. He was experiencing two major milestones in his life. Turning sixty, and finally acquiring his Canadian citizenship. The party was a Canadian theme, as you may guess from the pictures.

The other goal for our gathering was to raise funds for Abraham’s ongoing support as a urban missionary to Hamilton, and also his upcoming visit to South Africa to visit his son, Isaac, who he has not seen for 13 very long years.

The highlight of the evening was the open mic time, where person after person came up to the front and shared testimonies about how Abraham had welcomed and encouraged them, come alongside them, trained them in leadership, brought life and vitality to their various ministries. The scriptures say that we have many teachers, but not many fathers, and it was a beautiful thing to see Abrahams fathering grace on display as his children rose up and called him blessed.

Here is a video you can watch that shares more about Abraham’s life and ministry.

Pastor from Congo

If you didn’t get a chance to join us on Saturday and would like to support Abraham, you can donate online here.

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GOHOP as a Womb (With a View!)

“Here’s the space we would like you to use for the prayer room,” our friend Val opened the door, and then stepped aside so we could enter. Crossroads ministries is going to give you use of it for free! Fantastic, eh?”

We looked around at the cavernous space. It was black. Black walls. Black Stage. Heavy black theatrical curtain separating us from the mail room. (Poor mail room, they had to listen to all our singing for seven years!). The space had previously been used for theatre, but now it was ours to try and build towards night and day prayer.

“Looks kinda like a womb,” someone remarked.

“Yeah, but it’s a womb with a view!” I quipped.

Interestingly enough, over the years GOHOP has functioned as a womb of sorts. Many seeds of vision being inseminated by the Holy Spirit. Many people being enlarged in the waiting. Labour and groaning as we brought things to birth.

One of our early staff launched from GOHOP into a career working with at risk youth. Another early volunteer credits the prayer room as being a place where she got a measure of healing and restoration, then vision for serving God, and then launched Into ministry. Several ministries, in fact, have found their genesis at GOHOP.

In this season where we seem to be working with lots of young leaders, we are deliberately leaning into this incubating grace that God has given us.

We are a womb. Smallish. Warm. Nurturing.

But we are a womb with a view. A vision for outside the prayer room. For partnering with God as he brings forth His purposes in Hamilton and beyond.

Several years ago, every woman in our small group was pregnant. We had a hoot lining them up on the couch and balancing coffee cups on their burgeoning bellies.

“Kiiiirk, everybody else is pregnant!” I whined. “I’ve still got a couple of childbearing years in me yet!”

“Don’t drink the water!” He was firm.

So if you haven’t come to GOHOP yet, I just want to invite you. Come hang out in the prayer room. And come and drink the water ;o)

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