We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless— the world didn't deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.
Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.
Stories are such a powerful way of connecting. Indeed there was, in most Scottish communities a designated story teller - a Seanachaidh - charged with keeping tradition alive by passing on tales from generation to generation.
Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh recently hosted a conference, collaborating with the HeartEdge network. Practitioners came together to share stories. The ethos of Heart Edge is bringing folk together to give and to take. People, no matter who they are or where they come from have something to share and much to learn from one another.
I was asked to share some of the stories of Path of Renewal.
And, while we don't have a set of blueprints to hand to the church, or instructions to be followed that will bring about growth and renewal, we do have stories to share of hearts and minds being changed, of ways of being church transformed and of the rediscovery of God inviting us to mission where we are with the people we encounter everyday.
Like one man in a congregation telling me: I'm still not sure what Path of Renewal is all about but I can see a huge difference in those who are engaged in it.
Or the minister with almost 30 years experience in ministry saying: I've discovered a whole new way of being in ministry that has revolutionised my practice and my preaching.
And the young woman on the fringes of church who has found faith and purpose through being invited to experiment with spiritual practices, finding that habits form character.
Along with the stories, however, there are also a fe principles emerging - including:
- Being too busy prevents us from discerning God's mission.
- Spiritual practices - individual and corporate - take us to a place where we are more likely to hear God and understand what it is God is asking of us today. We become what we practice.
- Cultivating relationships and being intentional about discipleship works. Whether dog walking or coffee drinking is our thing - doing it with others allows us to have faith conversations as we go.
- Transition is hard work - acknowledging the loss folk feel when change occurs, journeying with them and helping them see the promised land - even and especially when it seems far off in the distance is sacred work. We are called, not to complete the journey but to begin the journey now.