Deep Faith: An exciting conversation concerning Christian formation

2016_10_21_deep_faith_doug_uDoug Unrau has pastored the Lowe Farm Bergthaler Mennonite Church in Manitoba, Canada, since graduating from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in 2013 with a Master of Divinity. Previous to pastoring, Doug worked in electronic manufacturing and IT industries. In his spare time, Doug is a frustrated artist, dabbling in photography and music. You can check his sound out on SoundCloud. This is the final post in a series of reflections from participants in Deep Faith: Anabaptist faith formation for all ages, held Oct. 6-8, 2016. For more on Deep Faith, visit mennoniteusa.org/deepfaith.

The Deep Faith conference at AMBS in Elkhart, Indiana, highlighted faith practices the church community can use to find healing and unity.

For me, several themes stood out. Small changes make big differences over time, and change begins by taking a single step from where we are standing. We must learn how to practice “ordinary time” forgiveness, and we need to understand our place in God’s salvation story.

I was inspired by the love and passion so many people possess for the church and its mission. Conversations that began in plenary sessions and workshops carried into meal breaks and far into the evening.

I was struck by stories of simple church activities making big differences in people’s lives.

One participant from Pennsylvania shared many positive examples about how his involvement with church projects produced an impact in his neighborhood – fish tanks that were used for growing herbs for school projects and a bicycle shop.

Little things lead to bigger things. Small changes can change everything. DeepFaith_Mark_small

Another topic that stood out was Rachel Miller Jacobs work on “ordinary time” forgiveness. As she pointed out, we have done a lot of peace work dealing with extreme forgiveness. Forgiving drunk drivers and war criminals, but we have paid little attention attending to day-to-day hurts and offenses that accumulate and lead to negative effects in relationships.

Instead of dismissing these day-to-day hurts and offenses as inconsequential, we should view these hurts as significant and as an opportunity for self-reflection and spiritual growth. Miller Jacobs also proposed a forgiveness flowchart as a tool to help guide people toward forgiveness.

Connected to our need to forgive and be forgiven is our need to understand our place in God’s salvation story.

Both speak to recognizing our significance in God’s eyes. A commitment to forgive and be forgiven gives value to our actions and meaning to our lives. If our lives don’t matter, why would forgiveness matter? In the same way, knowing our place in God’s salvation story provides us with a sense of purpose and belonging.

At the Deep Faith Conference, there was consensus that our spiritual practices need to be practical and practiced.

Let me extend to you the same challenge I presented to the Lowe Farm Bergthaler Mennonite church last Sunday. A small change we can all make, that over time will transform our church, is to pray the Lord’s Prayer every day. Not just as words to say, but daily taking responsibility to be answers to this prayer, while trusting God to work through us.

The Lord’s Prayer plants us in God’s kingdom and reality. It is a prompt that our lives should be dedicated to bringing honor to God’s name. This prayer stresses our responsibility for our sisters and brothers wellbeing and our mission to be reconcilers, engaged in practices of forgiving and seeking forgiveness.

Participating in the Deep Faith Conference was rewarding on many levels. It was a great opportunity to renew old acquaintances, form new friendships, talk about faith, but most importantly it was an incredible time of worship. It also renewed my faith that the church possess the spiritual resources needed to bring blessing and healing to our congregations and the world God loves.

The first Deep Faith Conference has started an exciting conversation concerning Christian formation. May we continue to go deeper and strive to be more faithful.