By Matthew Forrest Lowe
I’m excited about the upcoming TrueCity conference. The theme — “Can I Get a Witness: Re-embracing the Call to Share the Gospel” — is a foundational question for this movement, as I wrote in my recent article on the TrueCity movement in Faith Today. A great lineup of speakers will keep us wrestling with this question, asking how evangelism and mission can fit together here in this unique, urban context of Hamilton, Ontario.
But it isn’t just the theme and the speakers that I’m excited about. It’s the people.
When I think back to last year’s conference and the one the year before, I can remember some of the things I learned: in “A Tale of Two Kingdoms” in 2014, I gained a new appreciation for the ways God calls his people to live amid the kingdoms of this world; in “Falling into Place” in 2013, I heard stories of what God was doing, locally, right here in my city, that I’d never heard before.
But my clearest memory is what I felt last year as I glanced up at the crowd that was gathering in that church gymnasium. Each time I looked up from setting up the book display table, I saw someone else I recognized, a friend I hadn’t seen in a few weeks or months, and another that I needed to hug and catch up with…and then another, and another, and another!
I remember grinning to myself as I realized my internal monologue was starting to sound like my five-year-old niece, who was then just emerging from the stage of labelling her “favourites” — that stage that happens before we’re taught that “favourite” is supposed to be an exclusive thing. That stage, in other words, where lots of people and things can be our “favourite.”
Every time I saw another friend, another partner in urban ministry and mission in this city, I thought, Hey, there’s Sue! She’s one of my favourite people! And there’s Greg! He’s my favourite, too! And there’s Steve and Gloria, and Jill, and… The mental list kept going — and that wasn’t even counting the people I would meet for the first time last year, who of course are among those whom I’m looking forward to seeing this year. They’re all my favourites.
As I wrote in the article, TrueCity holds annual conferences “for the same reason families have reunions.” We don’t just gather with folks from other churches because we’re supposed to convene and worship; these aren’t just colleagues, they’re our friends, and we want to celebrate our God together with them. Or, as my friend (see?) Kevin said in an interview for the article, “Since the people there are our friends,” we don’t just ask how we can join a ministry, but “‘How do we join with them?’”
Yesterday, I got another welcome little dose of this “they’re all my favourites” feeling, when I joined other TrueCity church leaders in a meeting — yes, an exciting meeting, imagine that! — where we were preparing for the coming conference.
The last time we met, I’d asked this same group to suggest some best practices for forming TrueCity-like movements elsewhere. One of the suggestions: “Gather for meetings, but also for building relationships between pastors and church leaders.” That wasn’t surprising, because that’s exactly what we do whenever we meet. We share stories from our churches, and personal stories, too. We eat and pray together, we celebrate a newly engaged couple, and we heckle one another (with love). Essentially, we enjoy a small family reunion. And together, we look forward to the big family reunion that’s coming up soon.
Matthew Forrest Love is a freelance writer based in Hamilton, Ont., and a TrueCity participant. Read more about TrueCity in the latest Faith Today. Take advantage of our lowest subscription price ever until the end of February.