A Message from the President
Let us gather and come together in-person and virtually for our upcoming 199th Annual Convention of the Swedenborgian Church of North America. Starting with an opening service on Saturday, July 1 we will be on the ground at Bridgewater State University in the lovely south of Boston community of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, as well as online for participation from any place!
These annual conventions have marked in large ways our history, and we often mark our past by referring to where convention was held for the time in question. Oftentimes attendees will speak of a particular convention for several years afterwards, and many of us never forget ones we have attended. I still recall my first one attended in 1982 as a first-year seminarian and meeting so many folks who would become my future spiritual community.
There is a certain “ritual of conscious convention” that earmarks these annual plenary gatherings generally regarded as the most important event of the year for our denomination. We experience our church in its fullest and most complex sense as people join from all our ministries as well as those who live too far from a ministry to be active in a physical site ministry. And increasingly, as we become more robust in our capacity to support a hybrid convention permitting people to participate virtually with both voice and voting rights, we have begun a new journey of how we gather that we could not have once imagined.
Significantly, these conventions provide an exciting menu of spiritual growth and education programs. About three decades ago we decided to evolve our annual gatherings into more of a spiritual education time rather than being so entirely consumed with business meetings. That intentional decision began the tradition we now call Mini Courses, which have proven to be fan favorites. A dozen of these participatory presentations this year will engage leading-edge topics and adventurous spiritualities from a Swedenborgian angle.
Yet importantly, there’s a certain factor of institutional accountability these momentous annual official gatherings support as they allow us to conduct both necessary and visionary business. We speak to the world through these gatherings as we consider important questions and often shape statements we publish in our denominational journal and on our website about justice issues and about good practices for a faith tradition.
And in these gatherings, we worship and pray together, and we bless journeys of ordination and pastoring into our ministry endeavors everywhere. In short, we strive with utmost intentionality to be faithful people of God. Whether near or far, I hope you can be a part of this 199th Convention and become a part of our ongoing history.
—Rev. Dr. Jim Lawrence
Read the full issue of the April 2023 Messenger
Meet Jim Lawrence
Rev. Dr. Jim Lawrence is the president of the Swedenborgian Church of North America. He was the dean of the Center for Swedenborgian Studies for 21 years prior to being elected President in 2022.