A Winnipeg pastor, as well as a politician, shared the stage this morning to discuss moving forward as a society post-pandemic.
Each month there is a Pastors and Leaders in Winnipeg Prayer Meeting. For the month of March, the group invited Pastor Mark Hughes of Church of the Rock to join City Councillor and former pastor Scott Gillingham on the stage to have a conversation about moving forward as a church and city after the pandemic.
"These past two years have been difficult for anyone in ministry leadership, in leadership at all," says Gillingham. "It's been tough."
Before Gillingham stepped into his role as a City Councillor he was a pastor of Grace Community Church in Charleswood for twelve years.
One of the questions asked on stage by Pastor Donavan Friesen, who mediated the conversation was, 'How do you care for the body of Christ with so much division?'
"The church really got suckered on this one," says Hughes. "The gates of hell shall not prevail against the church, but a house divided against itself will fall. It's the only way the church will crumble."
Hughes shares that in his 38 years as a pastor, he has never faced more abuse of criticism and judgement than these past two years during the pandemic, on both sides.
Friesen asked for three ways the church can move forward in unity in this post-pandemic time. Hughes brought up the passage from Joshua in which the prophet came face to face with a messenger carrying a sword. Back at that time, it felt like there were only two sides.
Hughes pointed out that right now people, including Christians, have drawn a hard and fast line down the middle of any and all pandemic issues. Many have chosen sides and been harsh to people with differing views.
Hughes shared that in Joshua 5:13-14, it says,
"Are you for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come."
"When Joshua asks are you on our side, or our adversary’s, in essence, the Lord says, “neither… the question is are you on My side?" says Hughes.
After sharing the passage, Hughes offered the pastors and leaders in the room three pieces of advice on moving forward.
"Get back to the main and plain, which is the person of Jesus Christ. We remind people about the verse in Joshua. Plus, we must move forward in reconciliation and forgiveness."
To end the conversation, Friesen asked both Gillingham and Hughes if they agreed and saw eye-to-eye on every issue during the pandemic.
Both men laughed immediately, then Hughes said, "Absolutely not. I believe we were pretty much on polar opposite sides during this thing, but he is my friend and we care for each other. We were not going to let that stand in the way of our friendship."
Gillingham included that any country around the world has made mistakes when it comes to pandemic measures, but that the government's job first and foremost is to protect its people.
"The church and state have different and critical roles, and both are needed," says Gillingham. "We need the church to step up and do what the government cannot. We need both to do their job."
Both men are hoping to bring community and congregations back together in unity over the coming months as people learn to live in a post-pandemic society.
Hughes endorsed Gillingham as Winnipeg's potential future mayor. Gillingham confirmed that it is very likely he will be a candidate for Mayor in this year’s election.