March 2–3 is going to be a great weekend in Hamilton, as our local churches gather for our 14th Annual True City Conference.
True City is a group of churches that have gathered together (in our case, in Hamilton) to work together for the good of the city. It’s churches who say they believe that we are better together. It’s a gathering of very different churches who realize we are working towards the same things: the sharing of God’s story, the hope of the Gospel, and the blessing of the city we call home.
I don’t remember exactly how I ended up as a part of this movement. I know that my husband, Dallas, and I were approached by Dave Witt, the True City staff person, and we started attending a gathering for pastors that met once a month to talk about ways we could get better at doing missions in our churches. I remember I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go. The reason for this was a simple one: I’m a woman—in ministry. I wasn’t entirely sure that I would enjoy the experience of hanging out with a bunch of (mostly) men who were (mostly) from churches who taught that pastoral leadership was a role for men only.
Is it really any wonder that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to those pastor gatherings? It was easier and safer and oh-so-much-more-pleasant to stick in my denomination and at my church than risk those kind of painful conversations with men from those churches: the ones who definitely wouldn’t accept me or take me seriously and certainly would just try to butt me to the back of the line.
I did decide to go. But I came to True City a SWM—a Skeptical Woman in Ministry. Skeptical that it would be okay. Skeptical that I would come away unscathed.
I soon realized that I was doing the same thing that I resented so many for doing to me: making assumptions. I assumed that the pastors from these complementarian churches would look down on me or try to put me in my place. They didn’t. Instead, I have genuinely felt nothing but support and encouragement from my True City brothers.
Eleven years later I consider some of these men to be not just co-workers, but dear friends. We do ministry together. We encourage each other’s churches. We host a conference together. And it’s good.
Do we all think the same? Absolutely not. Does it drive me crazy sometimes? Yes. Can we work together? Absolutely we can. And I think we have all taught each other a lot about the different people God is using to do his work. True City was the place that took the “S” out of my SWM status, because you know what? They didn’t push me out—they invited me to the table.
So why do I think you should go to the True City Conference? It’s not just about the women in ministry thing. That is just my story. But my story is part of a bigger picture—a picture of God working within, and because of, our differences. Sometimes us Christians blow the whole “unity” thing. Too often the Church looks like a bad 1980s high school movie, with each clique in their safe little corner, making sure the “like” stick with the “like.” To run with that analogy, I would suggest that True City is like “The Breakfast Club”—where we get in a room and realize we’re more alike than different. And the weekend of March 2–3, we will sing together and we will pray together and we will learn together and we will be very different than each other. And at the end of it, we will see the good in each other. We will see the Image of God in each other. And we will come away and share that with our city.
That is what God is doing in Hamilton. It is worth seeing.
Want more information? You can sign up for the True City conference at http://truecityhamilton.ca or show up on Friday, March 2 at Philpott Memorial Church. Conference starts at 7 p.m.
Leanne Friesen is Lead Pastor at Mount Hamilton Baptist Church
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of McMaster Divinity College or the Centre for Post-Christendom Studies.*