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April 20, 2021 / Issue Volume 33, Number 1, Spring 2021 / Field Notes

On Learning to Journey Alongside

By Christina Lui

Christina Lui

Christina Lui (MA ’06) serves as Regent College’s Associate Director of Advancement, and on the Regent Exchange: Church's for the Common Good steering committee. As a former pastor, she has a heart for the church, and she is enlivened when facilitating connections and fostering new ideas. Christina and her husband Daniel Ray (MDiv ’10) live in Vancouver with their two young children.

Regent Exchange: Churches for the Common Good is a cohort-based initiative focused on vocation and calling. We accompany churches as they reimagine how God has called them to engage their communities, connecting faith with all of life and contributing to the common good. This accompaniment takes form in a 12 to 18-month Learning Journey—an iterative process of discovery, discernment, design, and demonstration.

Regent Exchange is committed to learning together with our cohort churches. Nothing highlighted our need to live into this commitment more than the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As our cohort churches journey together, the Regent Exchange team is engaged in a similar process. Academic institutions don’t typically operate this way. Schools develop curriculum, then teach it. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Yet our desire at Regent Exchange is to learn alongside our cohorts: to grow, develop, and change as we listen and respond to their needs. In short, we embody the maxim that learning is in the doing—and we want to learn too!

In March 2020, we were halfway through the Learning Journey with our first cohort when everything ground to a halt. COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Nobody knew what the next day would hold. We had planned church cohort gatherings and designed learning tasks, all in accordance with a meticulously scheduled timeline. How would our work—the good work into which God had called Regent Exchange—proceed in such a time of uncertainty? Even more, how could these churches live out their callings when the entire infrastructure for regular church programming was stripped away in an instant?

As a team, we pressed into our own moment of discernment. And though it seems obvious (looking back now) that we would approach things the way we did, in March 2020 each small decision felt like an enormous act of faith in the face of great risk.

Yet, we were united in our understanding of how God seemed to be leading. Our discernment told us that we must pause and listen. We reached out to our cohort team leads, all of whom are pastors. We asked them how they were doing, and what they needed. We invited them to share what their congregations and communities were lamenting, what losses they were experiencing, and what challenges they were navigating.

Based upon what we heard in those conversations, we slowed down. We adjusted our plans, modified the Learning Journey, and created space so our team leads could attend to the urgent and unprecedented pivots that characterised those early pandemic days.

As our cohort team leads reflected back on this period of transition, they were thankful for the space to pause. In addition to the work of pastoring their congregations through the onset of a pandemic and shifting church operations away from in-person interactions, some of them leaned more deeply into the discernment that began on the Learning Journey, while others sought to contribute to the common good by serving the immediate needs of their communities.

Regent Exchange’s goal has always been to journey with and to learn alongside. We say that learning begins with listening—to God, to ourselves, to one another. The pandemic has highlighted that this listening and discerning posture is key to our ability to meaningfully journey with and learn alongside our churches.

How might our learning as the Regent Exchange team speak into the reality of the church more broadly? One way that comes to mind is this: in times of upheaval, uncertainty, fear, and anxiety, the role of the church is to pause, listen, discern, and learn.

Press the pause button on the traditional impulse to correct or admonish based upon sound doctrine. Wait on suggesting programs and ministries suited to those issues. Resist being mere dispensaries of spiritual goods and services and feel-good tidbits of advice. The role of the church in fraught and anxious times just might be to slow down and pay deep attention to those it seeks to serve.

In his book The Innovative Church, our friend Scott Cormode uses the language of listening to “the longings and losses of the people entrusted to your care.” Longings and losses. Never has there been such a time as this to listen and learn afresh about the suffering of our people—those in our congregations and those in our neighbourhoods. The church becomes irrelevant when it is more concerned with what it wants to do than with the longings and losses of the people around us. When this happens, the common good suffers and the impact of the gospel is lost.

So as Regent Exchange continues in the work that God has called us into—the work of journeying with churches as we explore how God calls us to connect faith with all of life and contribute to the common good—we lean ever more heavily on listening to God and to the people entrusted to our care. We invite you, the church, to do the same.

If you would like to learn more about Regent Exchange or if your church isinterested in participating in a future Regent Exchange: Churches for the Common Good cohort, please complete the Expression of Interest form and we will contact you when applications for the next cohort open.

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