Moderator Mardi’s Blog: From fear to joy

In various messages, I have been describing Mary’s turning from fear toward joy as a theme of Advent.
Even in such a perilous time as hers, with reasons to be afraid, Mary allowed her heart to turn from fear to joy.

Even in such perilous times as ours, with reasons to be afraid, we too are called to allow our hearts to turn from fear to joy.

For when we liberate our imaginations, reason is put into its proper place, and hope flourishes.

Last weekend in Winnipeg at the RiverRunning intercultural conference, I heard extraordinary stories of people turning from fear to joy, thereby inspiring others to do the same. Embracing one another across diverse cultures, it is exciting to see United Church congregations sharing a common mission with diverse expressions.

Left to right in foreground: Stan McKay, Laura Mariko Cheifetz, me, and Katalina Tahaafe-Williams. Photo by Alcris Limongi.

Knox United Church, for example, figures that there are between 80 and 90 cultural groups represented in its congregation. Not surprisingly, Knox’s congregational materials radiate a lively embrace of the 40th General Council’s reaffirmation about becoming an intercultural church (much more than multicultural), with activities that range from the Jesus FlickFest to the Rainbow Community Garden.

Communion table at the conference. Photo by Alcris Limongi.

I attended a workshop on youth and young adults, wonderfully led by Awit Marcelino, accompanied by other young leaders from Broadway Disciples United Church, also of Winnipeg. Awit had us noticing how often people have suspicions of “the other” until there’s a chance to really get to know “the other.” We noticed that there’s plenty of suspicion toward the church itself—until a good relationship begins, turning fear to joy.

So Advent is a season of not only allowing our own personal fears to turn to joy but also of being a church that enables fear of the church to turn to joy with us, in community: participating in God’s abundant healing of community.

All of the conference presenters were excellent, including our own Very Rev. Stan McKay. It may not surprise you that the following words from Laura Mariko Cheifetz particularly spoke to my heart:

It is the church that has the capacity to articulate an alternative narrative, one that emphasizes abundance over scarcity, justice over oppression, hope over despair, life over death, and dancing over giving up.

So with Mary, how will you move from fear to joy during this Advent season? And how will you give others reason to turn from fear of the church toward joy? How will you embrace unreasonable hope? How will you love without limit? How will you sing of joy? For these are the ways of God’s peace in the world.