The School of Mercy and Justice

Over the last year, we have spent much time in conversation about our Vineyard School of Justice (VSOJ), and about what God may be inviting us into this next season. In short, we sense his pleasure over the VSOJ these past four years – that it has accomplished what it was intended to – and that God is doing something new.

Today, in partnership with Sustainable Faith (the organization that facilitates the School of Spiritual Direction), we are very excited to announce a new school: The School of Mercy and Justice (SOMJ)! Our first cohorts will be this October in Winnipeg and Montreal.

Below, you’ll find a reflection on the VSOJ, the vision of the SOMJ, an overview of the new school curriculum, and tuition and registration information.

APPLY FOR THE SCHOOL OF MERCY AND JUSTICE


Reflection: The Vineyard School of Justice

The end of March, 2017 marked the completion of our fourth school since rebooting the VSOJ in the fall of 2013. As people have set aside six months to pursue what it means to love God and their neighbour in the contexts of poverty and injustice, God has done remarkable things. Here are a few highlights over the last four years (Video Reviews of Each School):

  • 21 total students
  • 12 women & 9 men
  • 2 students from the Vineyard in Montreal
  • 11 students who were street-involved / at risk of homelessness
  • All 5 students in the 2014-2015 school year were street-involved / at risk of homelessness
  • 7 Indigenous students
  • 18 – 63 years: student age range
  • 2 trips to the Himalayan Region Vineyards in Nepal (including visits to every Vineyard church; 1 Nepali VSOJ; and several gatherings/meetings with leaders)
  • 1 intern (Natalie Hamm) who served for a year, then became a leader the next year
  • 1 practicum student last year (Tara Glowacki)
  • 569 “likes” (and counting!) on Facebook
  • We established an articulation agreement with Vineyard Institute (VI) whereby our students could receive credit towards VI programs and certificates

The SOJ’s exposure has grown over the last years. As director of the school, Suhail has been invited to speak about the program / justice / compassion at various gatherings including:

As a result of CauseCon, 7 people (5 students and 2 leaders) from the Heroic Leadership Institute in Duluth came to spend a week with us.

VSOJ class of 2015.

Vision: The School of Mercy and Justice

The SOMJ involves three main changes from the VSOJ.

  • The school will be modular (5 modules, each 2 days, with a particular theme) as opposed to the format of the VSOJ (which was 5 days a week, for 6 months). Modular learning is more in line with trends in modern education and will also allow those who are working or studying to access the program and participate more easily.
  • The school will more intentionally focus on joining the contemplative and active life. The SOMJ offers participants an immersive, integrated, and robust spiritual formation for those who desire to cultivate a deep life with God and engage in the work of mercy and justice in the world. To use Ignatian language, we envision the school as training for those who desire to live as “contemplatives in action.” We want to facilitate joy, purpose, and wholeness in people and churches as they seek to embody mercy and justice in the manner and Spirit of Jesus; that the beauty and good news of the Kingdom may increasingly come to those our world considers “poor.”
  • The school will be an official Sustainable Faith school; it will not be a WCV ministry as the VSOJ was. Sustainable Faith’s Schools of Spiritual Direction comprise the largest spiritual direction training in North America (26 locations, 23 teachers, around 250 students / year, and around 800 students in the last eight to nine years). The organization is increasingly well-known and trusted. Being connected to and overseen by Sustainable Faith will:
    • give the SOMJ greater exposure and credibility. This will likely encourage greater engagement (more students), which will likely precipitate greater breadth (more schools).
    • allow possibilities for the SOMJ to scale and expand beyond WCV, thereby contributing to the spiritual formation of a broader scope of people and churches.
    • relieve WCV of significant administrative responsibilities. Sustainable Faith will administrate all details related to web presence, student applications, and tuition payments.

Who is Involved?

The Winnipeg cohort will be led by Suhail Stephen and Natalie Hamm; the Montreal cohort will be led by Erin O’Neill and Matte Downey.

From left to right: Natalie, Erin, Suhail

Matte

Natalie grew up in Steinbach, Manitoba. She has been a part of the Vineyard since moving to Winnipeg in 2013 where she lived at Flatlanders Inn (a ministry of Winnipeg Centre Vineyard that is an intentional community and place for those at risk of homelessness to get their feet back under them) for one year while also attending the Vineyard School of Justice. Upon completing the school, she spent nine months working with the Himalayan Region Vineyard churches in Nepal and IndiaSince returning to Winnipeg she has lived and worked at House of Hesed (a transitional community for those living with HIV/AIDS), spent two years interning and leading the Vineyard School of Justice, and completed Sustainable Faith’s School of Spiritual Direction. Natalie loves to run, read, bake, and always has at least one knitting project on the go.

Erin is from Quebec and currently lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she is part of the Winnipeg Centre Vineyard. She graduated from the Vineyard School of Justice in 2016, and completed her first year of Sustainable Faith’s School of Spiritual Direction in 2017. She resides and has interned at Flatlanders Inn. She has a Master of Occupational Therapy from the Université de Sherbrooke, and presently works with seniors in long-term care.

Suhail is from India, grew up as a missionary kid, and has lived in a total of seven countries. He currently serves on staff at the Winnipeg Centre Vineyard (WCV) as pastor of the Drop-In (street parish ministry), directed the Vineyard School of Justice for four years, and now directs the School of Mercy and Justice. He has been part of the Vineyard since 2001 and prior to WCV, was part of and led worship at Trinity Vineyard Christian Fellowship in St. Charles, Illinois, and at Kowloon City Vineyard in Hong Kong. He has a B.A in English Literature and Philosophy from Wheaton College and an M.A in Community Leadership and Philanthropy Studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He recently completed Sustainable Faith’s School of Spiritual Direction. He and his wife, Jennifer, met at WCV, have been married almost three years, and are expecting their first child this September!

Matte lives in Montreal, Quebec where being an English-speaking, Protestant, white female makes her a minority (and she is good with that). She has a B.Th. in Biblical Studies, an M.A. in Theological Studies, and a Ph.D. in Humanities (Theology/Theatre). She has taught in the Theological Studies Department at Concordia University and is currently an adjunct lecturer at Threshold School of Ministry in Saint John, New Brunswick. She co-hosts The Imaginators Podcast which features conversations on creativity and faith and has presented her work (both theological and theatrical) in conferences near and far. She and her husband, Dean, pastor the Vineyard Montreal Church, and you can find her blog at outword.blogspot.ca.


Overview: The School of Mercy and Justice

Through the combined experience of learning together through teaching and discussion, reading superb literature, film, engaging in individual and group activities and reflection, receiving spiritual direction, and practicing spiritual disciplines — all in a communal setting — students will grow in embodying the contemplative, missional life.

Module Themes and Dates

There are five modules, each two days, with a particular theme:

  • Module 1: The Story of Our Life and The Life of Christ
    • Sharing “sacred stories” of personal experiences with mercy and justice; an overview of the life of Jesus through the lens of action and contemplation.
  • Module 2: Compassion and Grief
    • Encountering the God who sees, feels, and responds to our suffering; grieving loss and the power of lament in sustaining a soul’s work in mercy and justice.
  • Module 3: Humility and Power
    • Encountering the God who “empties himself” and welcoming his upside-down Kingdom; invitations to poverty and simplicity.
  • Module 4: Mercy and Justice
    • Responding to people’s immediate needs and addressing systemic/structural issues; discerning vocation in mercy and justice.
  • Module 5: Rhythm and Rule
    • Arranging life for wholeness and spiritual transformation; crafting a rule of life that embodies the rhythms of action and contemplation.

Each module is from 9:00am – 5:00pm, Fridays and Saturdays.   

  • Winnipeg, Canada (location TBD)
    Oct. 27- 28, 2017
    Dec. 8 – 9, 2017
    Feb. 9 – 10, 2018
    Apr. 13 – 14, 2018
    June 8 – 9, 2018
  • Montreal, Canada (location TBD)
    Nov. 3 – 4, 2017
    Dec. 15 – 16, 2017
    Feb. 16 – 17, 2018
    Apr. 20 – 21, 2018
    June 15 – 16, 2018

Requirements

  • Readings (12)
    • Approximately two books per module, with a pace of about a book a month.
  • Activities (8)
    • We are not solely or even primarily thinking beings; much of what actually forms us are the activities with which we engage our bodies. As such, participants will undertake certain activities with a view to more fully encountering God and his heart of mercy and justice in and amongst those who are considered “poor.”
  • Receiving spiritual direction (minimum 6 sessions)
    • Spiritual direction encourages you to rest from doing, and be reflective; to notice, savour, and respond to the presence, voice, and activity of God. This is especially important in mercy and justice work, where needs and issues always seem urgent, ubiquitous, and inexhaustible.
    • Introducing Spiritual Direction [PDF]
  • Practicing spiritual disciplines
    • Each participant selects one to two spiritual disciplines to engage in more deeply over the course of each module.
  • General reports (4)
    • Before each module, you’ll post a one to two page report in which you:
      • share the current circumstances of your own life and spiritual journey
      • reflect on your experience of the readings and activities, receiving direction, and practicing spiritual disciplines
      • answer one or two specific questions related to the module
      • submit any question(s) you’d like to discuss in the upcoming module

Tuition

    • $900 USD (CAD ~ $1,211.40)
    • Note: The above figure does not include books or meals (lunches).
    • A $200 USD (CAD ~ $269.20) deposit secures your place.
    • You can either pay the remaining $700 USD (CAD ~$ 942.20) up front or in monthly instalments throughout the duration of the school.
    • You will be invoiced directly from Sustainable Faith.
    • There is an additional US $40 (CAD ~ $93) fee to cover debit/credit card charges incurred by the school. This charge can be avoided by using Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT); tuition invoices will provide details regarding this.
    • Note: Given that Sustainable Faith establishes tuition in US$, all above fees in CAD$ are approximate. Amounts in CAD$ may fluctuate based on currency exchange rates with the US$.

Who is the School for?

You do not have to be part of the Vineyard to be part of the school. The SOMJ is open to pastors, church leaders, and laypeople alike, and is geared to serve not just one denomination or church tradition, but the larger body of Christ. The training is Christocentric and guides people to embrace the entirety of the life of Christ in terms of his priorities of solitude and prayer, and of engagement and ministry.

    • Note: Each school will typically have no more than 12 students.

Application and Deadlines

October 1, 2017: Registration due
October 8, 2017: $200 USD (CAD ~ $269.20) deposit due to secure your place

    • We encourage you to apply as soon as you can as spaces may fill up.
    • Once we receive your application, we will get in touch with you for an interview and provide deposit/payment information.
    • The link below will take you to Sustainable Faith’s website. Please select the appropriate location (Winnipeg or Montreal), and then fill in your personal information.
    • APPLY FOR THE SCHOOL OF MERCY AND JUSTICE

Seven Offerings of Spiritual Direction

From left to right: Suhail, Andy, Barb, Cliff, Amanda, Danny (teacher), Natalie, Jodi.

This past June, seven people – all leaders in WCV – completed Sustainable Faith’s two-year School of Spiritual Direction. Alongside celebrating God’s transformative work in each of them, we are also excited for the ways in which their training will provide a wider expanse of pastoral care in our community and beyond.

Each of these graduates is equipped to offer spiritual direction; to accompany you as you seek to notice and respond to the presence, voice, and activity of God in your life. If you are interested in receiving spiritual direction, feel free to get in touch in person or click a name for contact information.

School of Spiritual Direction (Years 1 & 2)

Year Two Graduates (June, 2017).

In light of our tremendous experience with the School of Spiritual Direction this past year at WCV, we are very pleased to offer along with Sustainable Faith another Year One School and a Year Two School this fall. Below, you can find information about Spiritual Direction, the schools, and register.

  • Note: Year Two is only for those who have completed Year One.

What is Spiritual Direction?  

God is always working (John 5:17) and communicating (Psalm 19:2) yet despite being all around and even within us, we are often so profoundly unaware of his presence, activity, and voice, as well as how we want to respond to these things. Many of us also sense an invitation to learn more deeply how to pray.

Spiritual Direction is an ancient practice intended to facilitate a deeper experience of God in our lives, both in terms of our conversation with God (speaking and listening) and our attention to him (noticing and discerning God’s presence and activity).

Spiritual Direction is a shared, collaborative experience whereby a director and directee “come together for the primary purpose of focusing on the presence and activity of God in the directee’s life. In a word, Spiritual Direction is co-discernment. We learn to ‘see what the Father is doing (John 5:19),’ not just in that moment, but over the months and seasons of a person’s life. The goal is to deepen the relationship with God by growing in attentiveness [Introducing Spiritual Direction, p. 1].”


Why a “School of Spiritual Direction?”

There are two primary purposes of the school, broadly understood in terms of an inward and an outward dynamic. First, inward: the school is designed to promote personal growth in love for and devotion to God, in experiencing him, and in discerning the movement of the Holy Spirit. We believe that you will be enriched significantly in your faith and deepen your intimacy with Christ.

Second, outward: the school is designed to strengthen your ability to be attentive to others, especially in relation to accompanying them well on their own journey with Christ. We believe that you will develop honed listening skills and be equipped to offer Spiritual Direction to others in your own context.

Ultimately, the School of Spiritual Direction is intended “to cultivate excellent pastoral care and deeper spiritual formation within the local church” [Introducing Spiritual Direction, p. 2].

  • Note: Year Two graduates are certified as Spiritual Directors with the Evangelical Spiritual Directors Association, by whom Sustainable Faith’s program is recognized.

Who is Involved?

Sustainable Faith is responsible for running Schools of Spiritual Direction and has been doing so all over the U.S. and the Netherlands since 2007; we hosted Canada’s first school two years ago. We are thrilled to be offering this in the Vineyard and to have Danny Mullins (pictured below) facilitate it once again this year.

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Danny began full-time vocational ministry in 1979. He has since served as an Associate Pastor in three different congregations in Texas and Arizona, including eight years as a Senior Pastor. He has spent the past fifteen years as Associate Pastor of Vineyard Community Church, Gilbert, Arizona. He has also served as a worship leader for more than forty years. Currently, his primary emphasis in the church is in the area of spiritual formation. He completed a Masters of Ministry Diploma at St. Stephens University and became a certified Spiritual Director through Sustainable Faith’s School of Spiritual Direction. He is now a part of the teaching staff for Sustainable Faith and is actively involved in training others in the ministry of Spiritual Direction. He and his wife Janet have been married for forty-one years and are the proud parents and grandparents of four grown sons and four grandchildren, respectively.


School Information and Dates

The school is comprised of seminar intensives, practicing spiritual disciplines, receiving and offering Spiritual Direction, reading, and written reflections. The syllabi below may be subject to change but will give you an overview of what to expect.

Year One: Five seminar intensives, each two days, 9am-5pm each day.

  • Year One Syllabus (2017-2018) [PDF]
  • Module 1: October 13-14, 2017
  • Module 2: December 1-2, 2017
  • Module 3: February 2-3, 2018
  • Module 4: April 6-7, 2018
  • Module 5: June 1-2, 2018

Year Two: Five seminar intensives, each two days, 9am-5pm the first day; 1pm – 5pm the second.

  • Year Two Syllabus (2017-2018) [PDF]
  • Module 1: October 15-16, 2017
  • Module 2: December 3-4, 2017
  • Module 3: February 4-5, 2018
  • Module 4: April 8-9, 2018
  • Module 5: June 3-4, 2018

Financial Information

  • Year One: US $1,850/person (~ CAD $2,520)
  • Year Two: US $1,850/person (~ CAD $2,520) + CAD$70 for communal meals
  • There is an additional US$40 (~ CAD $51.19) to cover the debit/credit card charges incurred by the school for tuition. This charge can be avoided by using Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT); tuition invoices will provide details regarding this.
    • Note: Books (approx. US$120 (~CAD $153.57)), travel, and accommodation are not included in tuition. Meals (lunch) are not included in Year One.
  • After paying an initial US $440 (~ CAD $563.09) deposit to secure your place in the school, you can either pay the remainder of your tuition up front or pay a portion each month for the duration of the school (9 payments of ~ CAD $211.14 for Year One or Year Two, for example).
  • You will be invoiced directly from Sustainable Faith.
    • Note: Given that Sustainable Faith establishes tuition in US$, all above fees (except for Year Two communal meals) in CAD$ are approximate. Amounts in CAD$ may fluctuate based on currency exchange rates with the US$.

Who is the School for?

You do not have to be part of the Vineyard to be part of the school. “The School of Spiritual Direction is open to pastors, church leaders, and laypeople alike, and is geared to serve not just one denomination or church tradition, but the larger body of Christ. The training is Christocentric and guides people to embrace the contemplative life; helps us honour sabbath and observe life-giving rhythms; draws us toward healthy, embodied spiritual practices; nurtures self-awareness and vocational clarity; and ultimately, launches Kingdom enterprises” (Introducing Spiritual Direction).

  • Note: Each school typically has no more than 12 students.



 


Application and Deadlines

September 15, 2017: Registration due
September 22, 2017: US $440 (~ CAD $563.09) deposit due to secure your place

  • We encourage you to apply as soon as you can as spaces may fill up.
  • Once you apply, we will get in touch with you for an interview (for Year One students only) and provide payment information.
  • The link below will take you to Sustainable Faith’s website. Please select the appropriate school (Year One or Two), select Winnipeg Manitoba as the location, and then fill in your personal information.
  • APPLY FOR THE SCHOOL OF SPIRITUAL DIRECTION

How Can I Get More Information?

Contact Winnipeg Centre Vineyard.

In Memory of Cherilyn Leveque

To my loving niece Cherilynn Leveque:

I never realized the love you left behind.
How kind and sharing you’d had been.
We all miss you dearly.
We all wish we could have you back
So we can sit and talk to you so dearly.
You left us all a life’s lesson, we commend you so dearly.
Live, Love, Laugh and Hug and give someone a smile.
Friendships and families are important
And cherish them so dearly.
Remember the less fortunate, the impoverished and the low
Because they may have been like you…
A niece we lost long ago.
Who was dealt life’s difficult blows.
Through it all you choose to smile to be that example indeed.
Live, Love, Laugh and Hug and give someone a smile.
Oh how I miss you so
I know you’re in heaven
Because there’s a savior who knows our deepest soul.
I know that you’re with me, I can feel you in my heart!
You’re now in the bosom of Jesus, safely in his arms!
Until we meet again my niece! Oh how I love you so!

~ Susan Henry, Cheri’s aunt


Cheri has managed to wiggle her head through the window of the bus. She’s gazing forward, smiling. It’s the end of farm day; we’ve had barbecued hot dogs and potato chips for lunch, and spent the afternoon swimming. The day is pleasant, filled with sunshine. I am waiting outside the bus, making sure we haven’t missed anyone. People are smiling at me and making faces through the windows. We are laughing at each other. I take out my phone to take pictures. Cheri wants me to take hers.

Of all the things I remember about Cheri, this is most vivid: she loved having her picture taken. She had a gift for recognizing and savouring joy. She was grateful. When she asked for a picture, it was her way of saying that she was delighted and that she was thankful.

I can still hear her laugh and see the way it illuminated her. She had kind eyes. She loved bingo and taco salad. Pictures don’t quite capture all that.

There was pain in her life, too. She was humble and vulnerable about it, unafraid to ask for help and to share when she was struggling. Her body was fragile and there were times we could only lightly lay hands on her as we prayed for her. Once, I remember kneeling down beside her at drop-in when she was having a seizure. She was shaking on the floor, in a fetal position, and couldn’t say a word. A few of us were alongside her, speaking quietly and reassuring her that we were there and that help was on the way.

WCV, and particularly Drop-In, was a home and family for Cheri. During one Celebration Sunday, she was even proposed to in the middle of a contemplative prayer exercise! I have no doubt that she knew that she was wanted here. On another Sunday, she took the microphone and, in front of everyone, gave WCV a framed sign as a gift and then proceeded to share some very personal things about her life with our congregation. It was a holy moment. A few people gathered around to pray for her. Our community was better because of her, and it was a privilege and an honour to be entrusted with her over these years.

Just before Christmas, on our last Drop-In gathering of the year, we took a picture. Amazingly, it wasn’t Cheri’s idea though I’m sure she was in hearty agreement. We all huddled together on stage, trying to fit into the frame. Cheri is front and centre, wearing a bright red Coca-Cola t-shirt, smiling at the camera. Sunlight is radiating through the windows behind us. Before the picture was taken, Cheri went and got the sign that she gave us that particular Sunday – it had been hanging in our sanctuary ever since, on stage. She’s holding the sign with both of her hands. “Friends.” That’s what the sign says. This is our last picture together, with her. In January of this year, Cheri took her own life.

Today, Cheri is with Jesus in paradise. I can only imagine what enduring vision of joy she is beholding now, how illuminated she is, and how amazing it must feel to at last be free of pain. We thank God for her life. And we look forward to gazing upon the beauty of our Lord together one day; the day to which every picture of joy, gratitude, and friendship points.

Vineyard School of Justice 2016-2017 Begins!

The Vineyard School of Justice 2016-2017 has begun! We are excited about the five students God has brought us this year: Karen Merkel-Kopp, Doreen Daniels, Eric Robertson, Dominic Mwaura, and Ray Sanford. Dominic and Ray will be with us for the fall semester as they completed the spring semester last year; the other three will be with us for the entire school year.

We are also thrilled to have Natalie Hamm and Tara Glowacki involved this year. Natalie will be serving as a leader in the school after being a leadership intern last year. And as part of her theological studies, Tara will spend some of her time as a practicum student in WCV with the school.


The Vineyard School of Justice is a unique, six month program designed to foster a passion for loving God and loving your neighbour (especially those society deems “least”). The school facilitates a unique environment where those who are street-involved and those who are not, come together, learn side by side, and encounter Jesus and his kingdom of justice.

Please pray for our school and especially our students in their journey over the next few months.

For more information:
Vineyard School of Justice
School Facebook Page

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School of Justice in Nepal (Part Four – earthquake edition)

This is the final installment in a four-part series on the Vineyard School of Justice trip to the Himalayan Region Vineyard Churches in Nepal.


Unshakable Amidst Earthquakes

The spiritual vitality in the HRV defies the logic of the earthquakes and their aftermath. During our time, everywhere we went, we witnessed and experienced resilient, radical trust in God’s faithful presence, love, and power. There are some features of faith which are only discovered with experience, and the people in the HRV know what it means to place their hope fully in Jesus. Our time with these precious people reminds me of the Psalmist’s words in Psalm 46, words which the Holy Spirit – in some mysterious way amidst the shaking of the earth – has written indelibly on the hearts of the people in the HRV.

God is our refuge and strength
    an ever-present help in trouble
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God
    the holy place where the Most High dwells
God is within her, she will not fall
    God will help her at break of day
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts

The Lord Almighty is with us
    the God of Jacob is our fortress


Video and Photographs

Below, Pastor Uddav Thapa of Chhampi Vineyard describes his experience in the earthquake. Beneath the video, there are several photographs highlighting some of the earthquake realities we witnessed first hand.


School of Justice in Nepal (Part Three)

This is the third installment in a four-part series on the Vineyard School of Justice trip to the Himalayan Region Vineyard Churches in Nepal. Read Part One and Part Two.


NESSING

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Unlike Gatlang, Nessing is a mountain village without road access. With Pastor Prem’s brother as our guide, we trekked for two hours through the mountains to get to Nessing from Gatlang.

Serving in Nessing

Pastor Raju and Suresh Tolange (worship leader and intern) from Kathmandu Vineyard had spent several weeks in Nessing prior to our arrival. They had been rebuilding homes, befriending villagers and learning their language (Tamang), and facilitating gatherings at the Vineyard to encourage people in Jesus. Of the approximately 70 homes in Nessing, around 50 of them are believers, with a few people getting baptized just days before we arrived. It was a joy to see Pastor Raju, Suresh, and Pastor Kunni (pastor of Nessing Vineyard).

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Suresh plays guitar outside Nessing Vineyard

Pastor Raju took us for a brief walk around Nessing and we especially enjoyed hanging out at the far end of the village, with its stunning mountain views. That evening, the Vineyard was screening “The Passion of the Christ” and many people came to watch. We had supper and eventually went to bed, sleeping on the floor of Nessing Vineyard.

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View of “neighbouring” village from Nessing

Saturday Service

The next morning was a gorgeous Saturday morning, with clear views of the Himalayas. People began trickling into the Vineyard in their very best traditional clothing and eventually the Vineyard was packed with people for the morning service. Suresh led worship and the people poured themselves into it, filling the room with singing. Nessing Vineyard was commissioning several new leaders and I had the great privilege of praying for and blessing them.

I preached on the story of Jesus’ interaction with Bartimaeus, how Jesus asked “What do you want me to do for you?” At one point, I asked everyone how many of them had experienced Jesus healing them – nearly everyone raised their hand. People seemed to engage deeply in ministry time and several people expressed a desire to take the gospel outside the village and share Jesus beyond Nessing. It was so very inspiring; Nessing Vineyard is alive and on fire.

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Those raising their hands have experienced Jesus healing them

After the service, we took a group photograph and then trekked down two hours or so with Pastor Raju and Suresh to Syabrubesi, the normal point of origin for treks in the Langtang Valley. We met Sonam (who drove us everywhere during our time in Nepal) and our vehicle there and eventually arrived in Kathmandu late in the evening.


GORKHA

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Pastor Raju is from Gorkha and we travelled with him there for an overnight stay. Gorkha was the epicentre region of the earthquake; it’s about a six hour drive north-west of Kathmandu, south of the China border. Though many homes (including Pastor Raju’s parents’) were destroyed in the earthquake, thankfully the Vineyard building remained intact.

We stayed at the Gorkha Vineyard (some of us sleeping on the floor of the church and others in a tent outside) and Pastor Paul and Subadra (pastors of Gorkha Vineyard) took excellent care of us, providing us with great meals and gracious hospitality. Gorkha has a lot of fertile land and the food is all fresh, home grown, and organic.

Teaching and Training

Pastor Paul had invited people (as well as pastors from other churches) to come the next day for some teaching and training. I did three hours of teaching from the third and fourth chapters of Luke – on Jesus’ baptism, temptation, and the inauguration of his mission. Afterwards, everyone ate lunch together care of Gorkha Vineyard. We spent the evening relaxing and finished with another great meal at Pastor Paul and Subadra’s home. The next day, after lunch at Pastor Raju’s parents’, we drove back to Kathmandu.


REFLECTIONS

Words don’t do justice to all that we witnessed, experienced, and felt during our time in Nepal. Nonetheless, there were a few recurring themes our team discerned throughout the course of our activities.

First, the HRV excels in hospitality. One cannot possibly enumerate the cups of tea and snacks shared, the meals provided, the homes in which we were invited, and the plentiful ways we were not only welcomed but honoured. Right from the leadership to the very poorest of church members, the Vineyard in Nepal is an exemplary model of gracious, abundant hospitality. We were treated like close family everywhere we went, and it was overwhelming.

Second, there is a strong coherence of vision within the HRV. All of the Vineyard communities are deeply committed to worship, prayer, and outreach – these things are entirely non-negotiable. Worship and prayer were regular features of virtually every gathering or encounter in which we participated, regardless of whether we were in church services or at a farewell dinner. Jesus is welcomed, adored, and sought in every sphere of life.

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Wednesday morning prayer, Chhampi Vineyard

Outreach is also part and parcel of the way the gospel is lived out, regardless of the size or resources of the Vineyard church in question. Though Chhampi Vineyard, for example, takes in a weekly offering of around 250-400 rupees (around CAD$3-5), the church still reserves money for food hampers for Lugandol and visits the village faithfully every week. It is no wonder there is such growth in the HRV; the Vineyard churches go, and the sheer numbers of people who have experienced healing, deliverance, have come to faith, been baptized, and become part of the Vineyard is a testimony to this commitment.

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House visits and outreach in Chhampi

Third, there is high degree of strength and unity amongst the leadership. Pastors and leaders from various Vineyard churches, regardless of geographic distance, seem deeply connected in friendship. Leaders enjoy one another and there is a high degree of understanding, camaraderie, and teamwork amongst them. Perhaps this is in part a result of the earthquake, which required a uniquely concerted, unified effort on the part of the HRV leadership. Regardless of the exact reasons, it is obvious that the leadership is thriving.

Finally, there is a radical, obvious, and palpable passion for and faith in Jesus. You can sense this vitality in how people give their money during offerings and especially in times of worship, prayer, and ministry. Young children, youth, adults, and elders worship alike with abandon. During every occasion of prayer, people pray together in unison, with scarcely a bystander. There is significant engagement with and participation in ministry time, with people often streaming forward for prayer. There is real, prevalent belief that Jesus not only exists, but cares and acts in the here and now. And there is a beautiful sense of people being unashamed of Jesus, of people not being self-conscious in pursuing Jesus with everything they have. The Vineyard communities are alive and flourishing with faith.

School of Justice in Nepal (Part Two)

This is the second installment in a four-part series on the Vineyard School of Justice trip to the Himalayan Region Vineyard Churches in Nepal. Read Part One here.


CHHAMPI

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Chhampi is another village on the outskirts of Kathmandu, within an hour’s drive of the city. We visited the village twice – once for a two-day stay and another time just for the day.

House Visits

Shortly after our first visit, we hopped into our trusty vehicle and visited a few Vineyard people’s homes in the afternoon. Two years ago, we met a lady named Thuli Amma; she’s since become a leader in the Vineyard. Her house was completely destroyed by the earthquake. Her new home is beside her old one, and we drank tea together and listened to her tell her story of coming to believe in Jesus. After praying for her, we went to visit David Tamang, who was the first believer in the village and whose home used to serve as the meeting place for the Vineyard. The next day we visited Maila Dai and his wife in their home. We had a good time visiting and praying for people.

Accommodations and Service

Pastor Uddav and Puja are the leaders of Chhampi Vineyard. Their home was also completely destroyed by the earthquake. A Hindu family gave them and many others shelter – 40 people lived together in close quarters as they were waiting for their new homes to be built. Pastor Uddav says this was a blessing as it enabled him to really get to know the people of his village. Now, Pastor Uddav, Puja, and their baby girl Ulani, live in a tin structure that shares a wall with the Chhampi Vineyard. I stayed with them and Erin, Natalie, and Laura slept in the Chhampi Vineyard building.

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Puja, Uddav, Ulani, and Jenish (from left to right)

On our first evening in Chhampi, we had a great time worshipping together. There are several ladies who love to dance during worship and inevitably they pulled a few of us into worship. At one point, there were several of us dancing together before the Lord, and it was absolutely delightful. The four of us from the School of Justice shared on loving God and loving your neighbour. Once again, ministry time was remarkable, with a sweet sense of the Spirit touching and filling people with the love of God.

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Afterwards, several of us went to the shop at the junction of the village to enjoy some tea with truly fresh milk. It was heavenly! We then went back to Pastor Uddav and Puja’s home for dinner and, eventually, bedtime.

Lugandol

The next morning, after a great breakfast with Pastor Uddav and Puja, a group of people from Chhampi Vineyard gathered for prayer before outreach to a nearby village called Lugandol. Lugandol is about a thirty minute walk from Chhampi and, as of now, currently has no believers – it’s an entirely Hindu village. The Vineyard has been reaching out with food hampers, relationship, and prayer and we were excited to participate.

We saw wonderful things in Lugandol. After handing out food hampers the first time we visited, we met an elderly lady whose knees had been troublesome for quite some time. We prayed for her and when we asked her to try walking, she did a little jig and said that the pain was gone – she was completely healed.

We also heard that there was a man who was paralyzed on one side of his body, and were eager to pray for him. People told us not to waste our time as they believed he was going to die. His wife was fatigued from having to take care of him. When we saw him, he looked like a ghost of a person – totally weak and lifeless. Apparently he had not moved from his house in 30 days. As we greeted him, he had to lift one of his hands with the other to greet us back. We prayed for him and after the first round of prayer, asked how he was feeling. He was responding and talking to us, and we came to find out that since his paralysis he hadn’t been able to hear. Yet now, somehow, Jesus had opened his ears and he was hearing and talking!

This of course gave us more faith to pray that he’d be able to walk. We prayed for him again and afterwards, asked if we could help him up. He agreed and as we helped him, his legs were strong enough to walk to the other side of his home! After this episode, and before we visited the man a second time a week or so later, Pastor Uddav told us that the man was walking around the village. When we finally saw him for the second time, he was lying down in his home. Entirely on his own strength, he sat up, greeted us (this time with both hands functioning) and then proceeded to pick up the mat he was sitting on, walk outside with it, and sit down and visit with us. It was incredible to see him so filled with life. We saw Jesus heal a deaf, paralyzed man!

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The second time we visited Lugandol, we prayed for a woman whose right eye was totally blind and had been for years. She had visited doctors, who had told her there was nothing they could do for her. As we prayed for her, she said she could see flickers of light and said that she now had confidence that she would be able to completely see. God’s presence was strong upon this lady as we prayed for her. We also prayed for a woman who described feeling “thorns” all over her body. Pastor Ramesh felt that this was a result of all the spiritual practices going on in her home – the lady’s husband is a witch doctor. We prayed for her and as we did, her husband joined us, so we asked him if we could pray for him too and he agreed! He said he had pain “from the gods” on his head and legs on occasion, so we laid hands on him and prayed. As we were doing so, he said the pain was moving from one leg to the other. We prayed that Jesus would reveal himself to the witch doctor as the one, true God. Afterward, the man looked brighter and more joyful. Lugandol was a special place for us indeed.


GATLANG

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View of Gatlang (the small collection of homes)

From Kathmandu, we drove around eight hours to Gatlang, a traditional mountain village in Rasuwa district which is near the Tibet border. The drive through the mountains is at once beautiful and treacherous, requiring some death-defying driving which Sonam (on staff at Kathmandu Vineyard, and our driver) handled expertly.

Our small, wooden guest house had quite a view of Lantang Lirung, the highest mountain in the Langtang Himal range. Even though Nepal is full of hills and mountains, seeing the Himalayas is always uniquely breathtaking. We met Pastor Prem and two other leaders from Gatlang Vineyard, enjoyed some tea together, and then turned in for the night after finding (and killing) around eight spiders in our rooms!

Post-Earthquake Devastation

The next morning Pastor Prem met us for breakfast at the guest house, after which he took us to visit various people from the Vineyard. We sat in their homes and prayed for them. The devastation and discouragement wrought by the earthquake was the most obvious here of all the places we visited. The rubble of stone houses is ubiquitous and though no one from the Vineyard here (or anywhere in the HRV for that matter) died during the earthquake, virtually everyone’s home in Gatlang was destroyed. This includes Pastor Prem’s home, his family’s, and the youth leader’s. In fact, all that remains of the old Vineyard building is one isolated, mint-green wall. The Vineyard is now meeting in a make-shift wood and tin structure. We felt for Pastor Prem and the congregation.

Lemba

Perhaps one of our most special interactions was with a man named Lemba. Lemba is unable to speak and has trouble seeing through one eye. His parents passed away and their graves are side by side on his property; he lives alone. He is part of the Gatlang Vineyard and Pastor Prem told us that he is one of their strongest believers, regularly praying for people for healing. He radiated the joy and light of Jesus. He was thrilled to welcome us into his home and seemed so pleased that we had visited. We prayed for him and afterwards, he excitedly showed us various fruit trees on his property. Pastor Prem told us that he wanted us to return to eat the fruit in season.

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We finished our time in Gatlang at Pastor Prem’s home, having tea, talking, and praying with the family.

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Within and Without

We are thrilled about the release of our brand new worship album “Within and Without!” The album features 12 original songs from our community and is digitally released and distributed worldwide by Vineyard Worship Canada.

CD Sales

CDs are $15 and payment can be made by cash, cheque, or credit card. You can purchase the album at any of our Sunday services or by visiting our church office during office hours (Tuesday 9am – 5pm, Wednesday 9am – 3pm, Thursday 9am – 5pm).  You can also download a digital copy via iTunes.

Tracklist

01. Glorious One (written by Sherry Ansloos)
02. On and On (written by Sherry Ansloos)
03. Needing You (written by Jocelyn Armbruster)
04. Come Alive (written by Sonya Braun)
05. You Are With Us (written by Suhail Stephen)
06. Let Worship and Justice Kiss (written by Suhail Stephen)
07. We Dare to Believe (written by Krista Heide)
08. One Heart, One Mind (written by Nathan Rieger)
09. Prodigal Son (written by Nathan Rieger)
10. You’re Right Here (written by Stephanie Woelke)
11. Worthy is the Lamb (written by Sherry Ansloos)
12. Christ as a Light (written by Brian James)

Information

The phrase “within and without” is part of a Celtic prayer that we have used frequently at WCV and Flatlanders (the prayer also comprises the words of one of the songs on the album). The Celtic prayer is itself adapted from another famous prayer written around 430 A.D called St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

In the Celtic prayer, the old English phrase “within and without” refers to a cry for Christ to immerse and surround the entirety of life – what’s going on inside and what’s going on outside. This inside/outside dynamic embodies the core values of worship and justice at WCV and how we long for both these values to “kiss” and have equal expression in the life of our community.

We long to love Jesus with all of our heart, mind, and strength, and we long to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. The two are entirely inseparable. We care about following, adoring, and cultivating intimacy with Jesus, and we care about mercy, compassion, and justice relative to those Jesus identifies with – those considered “least” in our world. We want Christ and his kingdom to permeate every aspect of our lives; to be a people who are always seeking to love God and others, within and without. The songs on the album reflect these defining impulses of our community.

WCV Album Artwork

WCV is about to release a worship cd! We have been working on it over the last two years and we expect to release it at our 20th Anniversary Fest (September 25-27, 2015). The album has 12 original songs, features 8 songwriters from our community, and sounds fantastic!

The album title we have chosen is “Within and Without.” This phrase is part of a Celtic prayer that we have used frequently at WCV and Flatlanders (the prayer also comprises the words of one of the songs on the album). The Celtic prayer is itself adapted from another famous prayer written around 430 A.D called St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

In the Celtic prayer, the old English phrase “within and without” refers to a cry for Christ to surround the entirety of life – what’s going on inside and what’s going on outside. This inside/outside dynamic embodies the core values of worship and justice at WCV and how we long for both these values to “kiss” and have equal expression in the life of our community.

We long to love Jesus with all of our heart, mind, and strength, and we long to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. We care about following, adoring, and cultivating intimacy with Jesus, and we care about mercy, compassion, and justice relative to those Jesus identifies with – those considered “least” in our world. We want Christ and his kingdom to permeate every aspect of our lives; to be a people who are always seeking to love God and others, within and without. The songs on the album reflect these defining impulses of our community.

We would like to invite you to submit original artwork for consideration for the album cover based on the theme “Within and Without.” Submissions are due by 10am, Sunday, August 23. You are welcome to submit an actual painting, design, etc., or a digital photo of it. If you submit a digital photo, please email Blair Barkley at gallery@flatlandersstudio.org and ensure that the photo meets these specifications:

File Format: JPEG or TIFF
Resolution: 300 dpi

Dimensions: At least 8″ x 7.75″

Once we review all the submissions, we will make a decision about the cover and you will be notified about your piece. If you have any questions, please contact Blair Barkley, Krista Heide, or Suhail Stephen via the means below:

Blair: gallery@flatlandersstudio.org
Krista: kristaheide@gmail.com
Suhail: suhailstephen@gmail.com

Vineyard Global Family Reflection


During the week of July 6 -10, three of us from Winnipeg Centre Vineyard, along with our dear friend Noel Isaacs from the Himalayan Region Vineyard churches, attended the Vineyard USA National Conference in Columbus, Ohio. This was no ordinary national conference, however, as Vineyard people from around the world were invited to participate in a “rich, intentional ‘family reunion’ [to] celebrate our roots, calling, and destiny together.”

The conference was hosted at the immense premises of Vineyard Columbus and within minutes of arriving I met a person from Turkey, another from Kenya, and (as if that beggars belief) still another from Ohio. Our movement is comprised of over 2,400 churches in 75 countries worldwide; amazingly, around 60 countries were represented at the conference.

It’s easy to focus on what God is doing within our local faith communities, but amidst a palette of people from many tribes, tongues, and nations, I was again reminded that we are part of something far greater that God is doing across the earth. It is humbling when the limitlessness of his kingdom becomes visible and it is particularly inspiring to realize that we have Vineyard brothers and sisters – propelled with similar vision – from so vast an expanse. We are far from alone. Even more, despite our geographic and cultural diversity, there was a palpable sense of togetherness and camaraderie amongst us throughout the conference. It really felt as if we had known each other for ages. We are a closely knit family, growing closer still and, as was said frequently during the week, we are “better together.”


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Worship

Each session began with worship and the first time we sang together, we sang in Swahili! Every worship time featured a pair of different worship leaders as well as an additional language to English. This was a wonderful testimony to the diversity of our movement. Add to this our gifted worship leaders, the sound of thousands of us singing our hearts out to God, and a lovely sense of Jesus’ presence as he inhabited our praises and it’s little wonder that our times of worship were so spectacular. Worship is such a hallmark of the Vineyard and at our gatherings it was both obvious and encouraging to see (and hear!) how deeply it characterizes us.


There were several meetings alongside the main sessions, one of which was a worship leader lunch. Several hundred worship leaders gathered in the gymnasium and after lunch, David Ruis shared a few reflections on simple devotion to Jesus. He asked us to open our hands and invited the Spirit to come and as we did, it began to rain outside. There was something refreshing, even magical, about the room being silent except for the sound of rain. Somehow, it feels as if a new spring of worship is upon us! We so desperately need God’s life and presence to rejuvenate us, to fill us with new creativity and artistry, and to sustain our hearts as we go on to lead others in worship. May we always remember that we are first worshippers and lovers of Jesus whom, by some grace, he’s invited and entrusted to serve in worship in our communities.


The Kingdom of God

We are also a kingdom people – bristling with an expectancy that the glory of God’s kingdom can break into the present at any moment and all the while steadied by the notion that its fullness – when all things are made new – is yet to come. In the midst of worship one evening we laid hands on and prayed for all those who needed healing. In the midst of worship on the last evening, David Ruis and Noel Isaacs led us in a very powerful time of crying out and interceding for our family in the Himalayan region devastated by the earthquake. We celebrate healing and empathize with suffering, and our worship rightly featured both. May we continue to faithfully hold this important kingdom tension.


“Come, Holy Spirit” and Everyone Can Play

I was overjoyed with the many ministry time opportunities throughout the week as we gave space and time for the Holy Spirit to do what only he can do. It was especially encouraging to see hundreds upon hundreds of people receiving prayer, and hundreds upon hundreds of people praying for them. There was no sense of elite ministry personnel; rather in true Vineyard fashion, we were all invited to participate. Without doubt, the Spirit was gracious in his power, presence, and gifts during these times and I believe God touched many people in deep and significant ways.

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Teaching

The teaching was superb and featured a variety of speakers from around the world (Brazil, Zambia, and South Africa to name a few). John and Eleanor Mumford – National Directors of the UK and Ireland – began the first session, with the latter giving an articulate and impassioned portrait of our distinctive Vineyard values. If anyone was on the fence about whether they’d like to be part of this thing or not, her talk would’ve surely tipped the balance! The next morning, Rich Nathan – pastor of Vineyard Columbus – provided a truly fantastic outline of Jesus-centred leadership and its expression in the Vineyard.

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Reconciliation

An especially poignant talk was by Rev. Dr. Charles A. Montgomery, who shared brilliantly about the kingdom being a place where dividing walls of hostility come down. Against the backdrop of recent incidences in Charleston and Ferguson highlighting racial division in America, and coming from an African-American preacher who vulnerably shared his own journey in racial reconciliation, it was incredible to hear such a clear, prophetic call towards being people who prioritize following Jesus above mere cultural allegiance.

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It was a stirring talk, understandably received with a standing ovation. Martin Buehlmann – who along with his wife serve as National Directors in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland – had both the sensitivity and maturity to forego his planned talk (scheduled immediately afterward) in place of facilitating a time of reconciliation, saying “We have to respond.”

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There was a sober call for any who felt particularly convicted of racism to come forward for prayer. People trickled forward and as they did, they too received a standing ovation. After this, several people groups – African Americans, Africans, and Indigenous people from around the world – were called forward as others – on behalf of their own groups – asked for forgiveness for being disrespectful, judgmental, and exclusive. Words do not do justice to the weight of the moment, which is perhaps why Phil Strout – National Director of the USA – described what was happening as a “kairos moment.” Suffice to say it was a sweet, profoundly moving kingdom moment in the conference – perhaps even a watershed one.


Justice

Nathan and I attended a Vineyard Justice Network (VJN) breakfast, where around 130 people who are either interested or involved in justice-related work in their churches gathered to fellowship and network. I was one of two peopled asked to briefly share about the personal meaningfulness of the VJN summit two years ago in Chicago. I spoke about how the summit helped enlarge vision for drop-in – not that we would simply have a more efficient, effective ministry, but that we would also have an eye on what it would take to eventually close down. In other words, what would we need to do to end poverty in our neighbourhood?

I also attended a Vineyard Educators and Trainers forum where, in light of our recent articulation agreement with Vineyard Institute, I shared about the vision of the Vineyard School of Justice. I met with other leaders of Vineyard discipleship schools including Heroic Leadership Institute and School of Kingdom Ministry and it was fun to brainstorm about what collaboration might look like.

Both these gatherings were helpful in terms of connecting with and learning from other people involved in justice and education, as well as enhancing exposure about what we do at WCV and in the SOJ.


At the very least, a family reunion ought to evoke joy for those who participate – joy in actually gathering together and a kind of rejuvenated, subsequent joy in being associated with one another.

The Vineyard is not the only movement in the world. It is not even the coolest or best. Nonetheless, it is a movement of God’s making. I loved being with our people during the conference and couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of the Vineyard Global Family. May we continue to be a people of joy, loving each other well and bringing delight to our Father.


To hear audio from the sessions as well as to order DVDs of the conference, visit Vineyard Resources.


WCV CD Worship Singalong

We’re in the process of recording a worship album comprised of 12 homegrown songs from WCV. Though this is a studio album, we really want to capture the live feel of what worship in our gatherings actually sounds like.

You’re invited to a community singalong where we’ll have a great time hanging out and worshipping to some songs from the CD. Your voice and the sound of us singing together will be recorded for the upcoming album. And don’t worry – we won’t make you sing solo!

Anyone whose home is WCV is welcome – and we’d love to have families and kids participate.

4:00pm – 6:oopm, Sunday, June 28
Winnipeg Centre Vineyard (782 Main St.)

RSVP at our Facebook Event Page