Why Is the Canadian National Gathering so Important?

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On May 24-26, 2019, delegates from across Canada will gather in Edmonton, Alberta for what is known as the Canadian National Gathering. As one of the key organizers of this event, I am sometimes asked, "Why do we even need a Canadian National Gathering, anyway?" To which I have a number of answers.

Allow me to briefly highlight what they are, starting from the spiritual.

Spiritually, every person needs time to intentionally connect with God. In the same way that Christ would separate himself from the crowds to go and be with his father, so we need time to pause and seek God’s presence. This need exists for individuals but it is also true for institutions.

It is appropriate that we separate ourselves from the regular daily work of 'doing church' to go and seek God’s voice. With this in mind, the Canadian National Gathering is being designed partially as a spiritual retreat, incorporating spiritual disciplines such as worship, prayer, perhaps even fasting.

The second reason for this event has to do with strategy. Strategically, it is critical for us as Canadian members of the CRCNA to understand the uniqueness of our context and ask ourselves the question, "Why does being Canadian matter to the manner in which we do ministry as we move forward?"

The Canadian National Gathering is a time for us to answer this question, together, over the course of a weekend. Through this discernment, we as Canadian CRC members will be better able to ensure that the direction of our churches and ministries matches the strategic desires and cultural realities of our time.

As a matter of fact, several years ago, the Board of Trustees of our denomination passed a motion that these triennial Canadian National Gatherings would be part of a 5-fold process to ensure that our Canadian uniqueness would be appropriately considered in our binational denomination.

The third reason for Canadian National Gatherings is about systems. Systematically, it is important to gather together regularly to ensure that the emphasis and work we as churches desire is maintained.

When these gatherings originally began in 2003, it was hoped that they would happen every 2 or 3 years. Unfortunately, 13 years went by without an event being held. During that time, the Canadian accent in the binational CRCNA dwindled.

In 2016, this tradition was re-launched and we are eager to ensure that it continues to happen. A good attendance and outcome at the 2019 Canadian National Gathering is necessary so that our accent does not dwindle again.

The final reason for this event is social. Socially, it is the greatest joy of these gatherings to watch representatives from local churches across the country share in fellowship. Best practices are shared, sorrows are prayed for, and encouragement is given. This fellowship is the joyous glue that holds the weekend together. 

Out of these social interactions comes a casting of common vision and enthusiasm for the work of God in the CRC as we leave from the Canadian National Gathering and return to our local churches and classis.

It is my hope that your church will begin thinking about who might be the best representative to attend the Canadian National Gathering in Edmonton in May 2019.

Every Classis will be asked to appoint one participant for every two churches represented in the Classis, with up to two participants being ordained ministers.

The only requirement is that each participant be someone who is "plugged-in" to the local church and has the best of intentions for the work of God through the church and the CRCNA.

Considering the diversity of people we are hoping for, perhaps one of these classis representatives might be you. Will you join us for this spiritual, strategic, systematic, and social event?

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Darren, thanks for your faithful leadership within the Canadian CRC context. I was among the attendees at that 2003 event in Edmonton. While I recall very little of the discussions that took place then, the social gatherings were invaluable.

There is one question that I would love to have asked at the 2019 event: "If we had to create a CRC in Canada from scratch today, what would it look like?" What would its focus be? Biblical preaching? Social justice? A vibrant indigenous ministry? Evangelizing? Church planting?

That question is sparked, in part, by a recent visit to a CRC that was undergoing a major renovation. I asked, matter-of-factly, if they were making the sanctuary bigger to allow for evangelization and church growth. The response: "We don't evangelize. We don't want 'Canadians' (ie heathens) in our church because it changes the church's culture. No, our focus is on internal growth (kids having kids)."  The great commission, it seems, applies to overseas missionary efforts.

There is, I suppose, a prior question that could be asked in 2019: "If we had to create a CRC in Canada from scratch today, should we? Or are others doing a better job than we are?"