Jesus said: "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Matthew 19:28.
As St. Matthew makes clear in the words of Jesus renewal in Christ is the end of all things. We look forward to the day when we shall be like Christ and share the inheritance of heaven that is his. The goal of the Renewal Fellowship is to encourage that necessary ongoing renewal until the kingdom comes in its fullness at the end of time. Renewal has been a prerequisite for faithfulness in every age. The human heart, and institutions governed by humans, will always need to be recalled and reformed in the process we call renewal. In truth those who fail to be renewed lose the very essence of life in God and become as St. Paul describes them "those who have a form of godliness but lack the power thereof." This is true not only for the church of our day but even in God's people of ancient Israel who knew the need to reform as recorded in 2 Kings 23:2-4: The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord — to follow the Lord and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.
I have been asked to describe the Renewal Fellowship and especially to share what I hope to see as its future direction. Simply put, The Renewal Fellowship is a volunteer organization, within the church, committed to renewing spiritual vitality and historic biblical witness in and through the church. The Renewal Fellowship activities include Renewal Conferences, Days of Prayer, and workshops for congregations, sessions and other groups. It publishes Channels magazine three times a year and produces Renewal News and a quarterly Prayer Calendar. You can read more about the Renewal Fellowship and its activities at their website renewal-fellowship.ca which also gives information about our e-mail prayer chain and other activities.
The Fellowship was organized in May, 1982 at Willowdale Presbyterian Church in Toronto as a reaction to what many at the time saw as serious slippage within the denomination of the traditional Reformed commitments. In the intervening years the organization has grown and the emphasis has shifted from reaction to renewal. The focus is now not so much in "circling the wagons" but in being a positive influence in moving the church to a vibrant and faithful witness of Christ's Kingdom.
Some of the recent initiatives that we hope to see grow and be a significant ministry in the future is the Men's Ministry Network, begun in 2001. The first Men's Conference was held April 27th at Tyndale Seminary with Dr. David Sherbino as the speaker. Already there have been new "twinning" of men's groups to encourage and share with one another as well as new groups started. Since the national Presbyterian Men's Program ended a few decades ago there has been a felt need among many men of the church to have an umbrella organization to network through and we are hopeful that we can fulfill that role. We have co-sponsored with Crieff Hills the National Pastors' Conference for several years and I see this as an extremely important ongoing part of our ministry. The feedback we receive from most participants is that it is like a place of still waters that restores their souls. We have also initiated a dialogue with Presbyterian College, Lakeshore Presbyterian Church, and Crieff Hills to expand this ministry of support to ministers and their families through a program directed to new ministers that would enlarge their vision and support them in their calling. This would extend over a three-year period and include both study time away from their congregations and spiritual mentoring. It is our conviction that strong leaders make strong congregations.
I also envision us supporting and encouraging congregations to engage in a commitment to every-member ministry. It is my conviction that God gave everyone in his church spiritual gifts that need to be discovered and used so that "together we can grow up into Christ." Gifts are discovered through gift inventories but even more importantly as people experience the fellowship of small groups where their gifts are discerned and put to use in ministry.
Another feature of the vision is the creating of new Regional Renewal Teams. There are already several teams (Atlantic, Eastern Ontario, and B.C.) that are holding area renewal days and workshops and providing a network of support for Presbyterians interested in renewal. Regional focus is an essential of Canadian life and although each Renewal Team receives support from the national body each has wide latitude in initiating and organizing ministries that are most needed in their area.
I see us continuing and expanding the ecumenical partnership that we initiated with the renewal groups within the other mainline denominations which have enabled us to hold the enthusiastically supported Christ Conferences. I would also like to see our partnering with groups like the EFC, and perhaps Exodus International as well as other renewal coalitions.
Partnership with various agencies and courts of the church is our desire and we plan on continuing the sharing of resources and co-sponsoring events with them. It is my heart's desire that we shall receive , either officially or unofficially, recognition as a servant fellowship to the whole church. This may simply occur because we have been a serving presence in the church for over twenty years and many people in leadership know what we are about; or it may take the shape of a more formal recognition similar to that of the several Mission Societies that are autonomous but work closely with the church courts and agencies in augmenting and initiating ministry associated with their area of interest.
Whatever the details of organization, administration, and co-operation it is my hope that the Presbyterian Church in Canada will be a vibrant, Spirit-filled, fellowship of God's people that are greatly used by him in bringing in the kingdom for which Jesus taught us to pray. This can only happen when we have come to God and listened prayerfully for the plans he has for us and then, without reservation, commit ourselves full-heartedly to his Lordship.