We Value Authenticity

Authenticity Teaching Segment Part 1 – by Susan Suzuki:

So authenticity has become one of those buzzwords that has worked its way from describing ethnic foods at restaurants to church.

So… As I watched this definition of authenticity on YouTube I was reminded of a Buddhist story I was told when I was a kid.

One day Buddha was sitting peacefully in his home, when suddenly the demon God Mara showed up knocking on his front door. Instead of freaking out or locking his door, Buddha invited the demon in for tea. Buddha decided he wanted to get to know Mara better.

Buddha made a choice in that moment and had enough courage to be vulnerable enough to invite Mara into his peaceful home. He invited Mara in to see grace, love and a feeling of belonging rather than seeing darkness and gloom. And… that is a powerful way to live.

I find this story fascinating, because I think it teaches us about embracing darkness and gloom whether it’s our own or others.  Darkness is not bad, it doesn’t need to be suppressed, it needs to be heard. These fears or gloomy astpects are as much a part of us as all of the good stuff, and if we suppress them we are denying ourselves of our wholeness and who we are.

So, if any darkness or negativity come up in your mind instead of hating them or rejecting them, take the time to accept them. This will change your human experience.

Just like in the spring, sometimes the darkest of days and the gloominess of rain will bring the most beautiful of flowers.

The Commons defines authenticity as a way for us to appreciate that we are all on very unique life journeys and that we don’t all need to look, act, or think alike to be able to learn and grow together. For us, it’s less about being authentic as a group … and recognizing that we are all authentic and unique people

I’m reminded of our Commons beach day. It was Susan Neudorf who said people must wonder who we are? When people look at our group they must wonder who we are because we are all so unique as individuals. We don’t appear to be a family gathering or church gathering and yet we are all here together.

What I love about our values series is that it’s been story based because if we share our stories it’s allowing us to connect as people and as a church. But more importantly to God because God has been in each of our stories. if we listen to God when he nudges us to send an encouraging word or to call someone we are in a small way being vulnerable but more importantly authentic.
Our insecuriritues can lead to fears but these also can lead to joy, creativity and love. Like it did for Buddha and Mara.

So if you choose compassion to deal with your insecurities because feeling vulnerable makes you feel alive and authentic even though there is no guarantee things will work out.

For Christians, our true self is found in Christ, and we are on a pilgrimage to become more like him. As 1 John 3:2 says: “We are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet appeared.” A greater reality awaits.

So, like the Israelites singing the Psalms of Ascent, we ought to look up and ahead to the even more authentic glories of Zion and her King.

Authenticity Part 2 – by Nina Zoomevele:

Here is a recording of Nina continuing our talk about Authenticity.

We ended out gathering with an interactive discussion. We asked people to share something from their bucket list, a lie and two truths about themselves.  Then everyone tried to guess which was which.

Click on the images below for the other talks in Our Values Series:

Act Like Men? – Broadening the Conversation on Women, Men, and the Church

Act Like Men 2Our friends from Epiphaneia and a number of leaders from Hamilton area churches are organizing a conference entitled “Act Like Men? – Broadening the Conversation on Women, Men, and the Church” happening the evening of Friday September 27th, 2013. This is an alternative discussion to a movement and way of thought found in many evangelical churches that often leaves individuals raised in a post modern context feeling quite perplexed and hurt. Here is the back story:

“This Fall, in downtown Hamilton, a group of male pastors from America are running a conference called “Act Like Men.” The conference is part of a far greater movement that believes it is crucially important for men to “step up” as the leaders in their church and home. While we all acknowledge the need for men to be mature and Christ-like, this focus on “male leadership” can be incredibly damaging to BOTH men and women, and of course, to the Body of Christ itself.”

IMG_0696As someone who has been on leadership teams in both churches that only have men on their board and church boards and ministry teams that seek out a diversity of gender and personality I can say personally how much more I learn from a mixed gendered leadership landscape, and how much healthier this has been for myself and my family.

That isn’t to say that there are no good men on church leadership teams that refrain from having women on their teams. Or that God won’t speak to teams of all men, but it is my opinion and experience that a male only leadership team robs themselves and their community of the chance to experience the full leadership gifts given to both genders. We all reflect the image of God, both Men and Women, and we all reflect that image in unique ways. Anytime we block part of that image from the leadership structure we are potentially robbing the community of a unique attribute of God and denying someone from using their God given gifts.

When the Commons was searching for a denominational tribe we were in talks with some communities that had specific structures in place that allowed some churches to adhere to men only leadership, as well as a disparity in who was able to be ordained. Even though these denominations were moving towards a more equal structure for leadership, we could not voluntarily place ourselves into that structure. At least half of our leaders and teachers at The Commons are women. We could not with good conscience step into a structure that would put these amazing women at odds with other communities in the wider denomination that would disagree with our leadership & teaching structures in principle, even though the denomination would support our structure.

IMG_20130427_122646We are so proud and happy about the diversity found in our adoptive tribe of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC). When we attended the 25th anniversary gathering of MCEC last year we were overwhelmed with the equal representation of women in the highest levels of leadership. We heard the long standing history and tradition of women in Pastoral leadership, and saw the fruit of that commitment in action in the women and men around us. A number of Commoners (especially our ladies) were quite moved and encouraged by hearing the voices of these women lead not as an exception (or a token) but as a natural reflection of God as both male and female in a way that was full, balanced and beautiful.

Many issues in the church are debatable, and at The Commons there is a wide array of positions and opinions on any given topic, but in the case of Gender Equality and Servant Leadership, our community is remarkably united in our diversity.

Though we are happy to be in relationship with many people and churches that don’t share our views on many things, and we would happily be open to acknowledging the possibility of being wrong on many things; “shared servant leadership” with both men and women having the opportunity to fully participate would respectfully not be one of those things. Do we love and work with churches and people that don’t agree with us in this area? Yes we do! We love our friends who disagree with us (sometimes in sadness) and we want them to see the amazing women who lead at The Commons and are definitely called to be leaders in God’s Church, the Bride of Christ, that mysterious Body of Christ that is so much bigger then any one tradition, tribe, or ideology.

If you have time to attend the conference on September 27th, I would highly recommend being part of this very important discussion. Here is more details and thoughts from the folks organizing the “Act Like Men?” counter conference:

We suggest that the Christian life is less about leading and more about how we serve one another.

As a preemptive tool we are hosting another conference, one week before “Act Like Men”, trying to share a broader story of what God is doing in his church, which is neither slave nor free, Jew nor Gentile, male nor female; but it is the new creation.

This ongoing conversation about gender and the church will welcome new voices as we fill in the gaps, offering an alternative to the dominant narrative within the evangelical church.

In the end, hopefully we learn more about how to serve like Jesus.

The style for the conference is unique: over the course of three hours each speaker will be given 15 minutes for a short presentation on a theme relating to gender and the church. Also, there will probably be a few surprises along the way!

Doors open at 6pm for refreshments, snacks, registration, and conversation. The conference will begin at 7pm SHARP (don’t show up late, ok!?)

The event is graciously being hosted by St Paul’s Presbyterian Church (70 James St S, Hamilton Ontario).

Cost is $10 through pre-registration, or at the door.”

To preregister and see a list of speakers Click Here.

Related Posts about The Commons growing relationship with MCEC:
Cesar Garcia from the Mennonite World Conference
Planting Seeds – Growing Roots