In 2018 we were supported and championed by Cobourg Alliance Church, a handful of individuals and the ECD to begin exploring what it means to help people in our geographical area connect with the heart of God in the form of a New Venture.
When I (Ray) began with my wife Trina on this path, we had in our mind what this New Venture could look like, only to discover that the reality of the journey is different than the idea of the journey. To put it another way; where we started is not where we have ended up, which is often the case for any new enterprise.
As we began in 2018, we met new people, engaged in many conversations and saw Christ at work in ways which have been transformational for us. We could never have imagined that the path would be so beautiful, messy, tricky and life-changing all at the same time.
Over these past few years we tried many different approaches to connecting with people and learning how to respond to the faithful work of Christ at work all around us. All of our learning communities and experiences have shaped how we see ourselves, the world and in particular, how we see Open Table Communities participating in the unfolding work of God in our time and place in history.
Our learning has been, and continues to be rooted in our relationships with all sorts of people. We have connected with those who are spiritually open and curious, those who have some very real wounds from religious systems, and those who are learning what it means to follow the way of Jesus where they live, work and play. As we have engaged in community and conversations, it has become apparent to us that we have a unique calling to walk with those who are not part of a conventional church nor who are compelled to belong to one.
We genuinely sense God inviting us to connect with people who are resistant to conventional church expressions but who are open to the good news of Jesus. For those in our orbit, a conventional church is an un-necessary distraction or barrier to a life of faith.
As such, we see the importance of creating generous space where people at all places of the journey can establish meaningful, healthy spiritual community. As much as we can appreciate the benefits of a formalized membership within a community (a necessary element of a conventional church), we feel that it can also set up an unnecessary barrier for those that we are walking with. This is one example (although there are a number) where current conventional church structures are unhelpful rather than helpful, in our context.
This has led us to prayerfully consider our options moving forward.
It is important to myself and Open Table Communities, that we honour the leadership of The Alliance, its structures and governance. As we look towards the future of Open Table Communities, it is apparent that the structures and governance within The Alliance will not be best suited to help us remain faithful to the vision that we have, and the people we are walking with, and as such feel that the best decision is to conclude our time in a formal relationship with The Alliance as a New Venture. This allows us to honour The Alliance family, it’s leaders, structure and governance, and at the same time remain faithful to that which we sense Jesus doing in and through us.
This has been a difficult decision, and one that was not made lightly. It was made prayerfully and carefully along with different leaders and individuals who have coached and mentored us along the way.
I have been so grateful for the support and encouragement of so many wonderful people who have invested, prayed and joined the various learning community initiatives that we have embarked on over the past few years. Cobourg Alliance Church, along with other Alliance Churches and individuals within those communities, have been a tremendous blessing to my family, and have been instrumental in our development.
In particular, I am thankful for the support received from our District office and staff, specifically Malcolm Billing who has been a coach and supervisor for Open Table Communities and shares the following about this change.
“The ECD has been honoured to journey with Ray and Open Table Communities over these past three years. Our heart beats with that of Open Table's: to see people encountering the good news of Jesus in fresh ways. New Ventures endeavours to create an environment where leaders can step out in faith, responding to the new things God is doing in them and in their communities. We have seen this with Ray and Trina and believe that this season has allowed them to identify with greater clarity who God is calling them to be and to whom he is calling them to walk with. While this transition comes with a sense of loss, we have discerned this next step together with Open Table. We know that God is on the move and believe that this is the best next step as Open Table ministers to those to whom they have been called.”
---Malcolm Billing, Executive Director of the ECD
As we continue to discern future direction we look forward to continuing to learn with our friends in The Alliance family, recognizing that we are all part of the much larger narrative of what God is doing in our day. There is, as Malcolm stated above, a sense of loss with this change for us, and at the same time a sense of anticipation for what the future holds.
Please take a moment to further explore what this decisions means through the links provided below.