Planning the Next Canadian National Gathering
Planning has begun for the next Canadian National Gathering. This will be the third such event for Canadian members of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, and it is scheduled for May 25-28, 2023, in Ottawa, Ont., on the campus of Algonquin College.
Gatherings of this type are held in Canada every three years as a way to have national conversations about ministry both in local congregations and as a national and binational church. The idea for such events arose from a 2013 report to the CRCNA Board of Trustees on “Cultivating Binationality in the CRCNA” (see Acts of Synod 2014, pp. 432, 440-42). The gatherings are intended to provide time to strategically celebrate, discern, and envision bold next steps for the CRCNA in Canada locally, regionally, and nationally.
The upcoming gathering will focus on justice and reconciliation themes as an important aspect of the church’s gospel call in Canada. Hearts Exchanged, a learning and action journey focused on Indigenous justice and reconciliation, will receive specific attention. Hearts Exchanged has been leading cohorts on this journey since fall 2020, and hundreds of Christian Reformed people from every Canadian classis (regional grouping of churches) have participated. The journey is designed to prepare the CRC to build relationships with Indigenous communities that are marked by mutual respect and reciprocity. Participants have been invited into honest dialogue about the harms of colonialism, and they have encountered “hearts broken” stories and experiences.
“We’ve seen the Holy Spirit at work in the dialogue happening through the Hearts Exchanged journey,” said Mike Hogeterp, one of the program leaders. “We hope that the Canadian National Gathering will serve as a commencement, a deepening of the CRC commitment to embody reconciliation and belonging for all.”
Classes are in the process of inviting four participants each (two from Classis Lake Superior) to attend the 2023 Canadian National Gathering. Hearts Exchanged participants and others who wish to attend the event are encouraged to speak with leaders from their classis to be considered for nomination. In addition, specific people from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color backgrounds will be invited to attend.
During the gathering, approximately 150 participants will gather for worship, prayer, teaching, and circle-discernment on exchanging hearts and seeking faithfulness in the Creator’s call to reconciliation. Participants will also have an opportunity to engage in a deep-listening exercise under Indigenous leadership. The planning team has already begun to confirm well-known Indigenous-Christian speakers to lead during this weekend.
Participants will be encouraged to listen and participate with respect and humility in an intercultural context and to carry what they have learned back to their congregation and classis. The campus at Algonquin College will be helpful in this regard, providing ample opportunity to gather in circular spaces, including an outdoor amphitheater and a wood-paneled space for the plenary sessions.