WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
The Rev. Danielle James of Fort Saskatchewan is the leader for this year's Strathcona County Ecumenical Mission.
Christians are called to create a new type of neighbourhood, one like that envisioned in the Gospel by John the Seer, says the Rev. Danielle James, leader of this year's Strathcona County Ecumenical Mission.
Speaking at the opening service of the four-day mission Oct. 6, James said the neighbourhood described in the Bible is a neighbourhood without crime, without pain and without tears. Most importantly, God lives in that neighbourhood.
But creating such a neighbourhood requires a new kind of seeing, James pointed out. "In Revelation, John had a gift of seeing differently. He was a seer and he had a vision of a heavenly kind of neighbourhood."
Revelation 21 and 22 offer one of the most exquisite pictures that we have of this idyllic city and neighbourhood.
"In this city there is joy, abundant life, transformation and love. What a vision for a neighbourhood," James said.
"It's a brilliant vision; it's a vision of a city with gleaming, golden streets that has given form and voice to the dreams of God's people through the ages."
We know this vision from Augustine's City of God, through William Blake's Jerusalem and Dr. Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream.
"Revelation's Holy City and its neighbourhoods have promised life, healing, reconciliation, transformation and justice. We love this vision," James said.
"This is the kind of neighbourhood that we want. It's the vision that motivates us to write inspirational speeches and motivates us to run for office to make a difference. It is the vision that instills in us the motto: 'Yes we can' and yes we must."
James, who leads the ministry team of First United Church in Fort Saskatchewan, led at least nine sessions during the Oct. 6-9 ecumenical mission.
Born in Trinidad and Tobago, James has served with churches throughout the Caribbean, U.S. and Canada.
In her opening sermon at Sherwood Park United, James described the ecumenical mission as "a wonderful living experiment that allows us to glance upon each other and into each other's lives to better understand the ways in which you express your faith through traditions, through outreach and through worship."
She said the vision of neighbourhood described in Revelation is a vision grounded in possibility, love and transformation.
"The vision gets even better, for John the Seer doesn't see us accomplishing this neighbourhood on our own. John the Seer sees us doing it alongside with a new neighbour that just moved in. The heavens descend and God takes up residence in this city."
She asked people to imagine that a U-Haul pulls in onto their street. That's God moving into the neighbourhood.
"This is good stuff," James said. "The fulfillment of God's vision will take place right where you are at."
James wondered if her audience bought into this vision. "I wonder as a pastor if we really bought into the fact that God is present, God is real, God is living next door amongst us and within us.
"Then why don't we live like we believe it?" she asked.
"Somehow we have to be the people who know what the vision is, who can feel and see and give an Amen and an Alleluia to the ideal while we are living it out in the ordeal of life - keeping our eyes open and peeled to the presence of God with us and amongst us in the neighbourhoods in which we find ourselves."
James said if we are children of God then we must be ready to see a world where God truly has taken up residence with us. "We, as disciples of Christ, see the world differently."