There seems to be more talk of “The Spirit” in Christian conversation these days. People have a sense that “The Spirit” is Jesus working in our hearts and experience, and in our influence upon others through “the light” of Jesus’ love in us.
But, we’ve left behind, our conviction that in our church life, our life together, particularly our decision-making, Jesus has promised to play a part by coming to give us guidance. “When two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.”
In the 1970s and early 1980s, we made a decision together about moving our church to a more open and accessible space on the Crosstown Highway in Edina. While not unanimous, our decision made by several hundred people meeting together was made by very wide agreement. It was very clear we were being drawn together and led to a common mind that convinced us we were being led by the Spirit. That enabled us to go forward together, and gladly.
The decisions about where we would build the new church, and what its theme and design would be, were quite remarkable, and in light of the issues and differences involved, seemed clearly miraculous. It was a heady time.
In fact, it took place within a period of two decades in which a widely experienced movement embraced the “Catholic Charismatic” movement, a Lutheran Holy Spirit renewal movement, and a stirring of other denominations in the Twin Cities as well, was happening.
Prayer meetings were taking place not only in the Catholic and Lutheran denominations, but in local churches as well. Colonial’s “Sunset Healing Service” on late Sunday afternoons, brought people for prayer that resulted in a number of physical healings. Our life was alive with the Spirit.
There were also many personal experiences of transforming life changes. Lenten “altar calls” on Ash Wednesday evening and Easter morning services brought people forward to kneel seeking prayer, and brought both physical and spiritual changes.
Resistant hearts melted and came to Jesus in our midst. Relationships were changed. Hearts were changed. Addictions to smoking were taken away.
It was clear to me that leading in all this would involve great risk – professionally and personally. My wife prayerfully encouraged me not to turn back. During a two-week study retreat at St. John’s Seminary, I was lovingly led by three Lutheran pastors to dare to be “baptized in the Spirit.” Gifts of praise in “tongues” and of healing were given me, as well as many encouraging words.
That summer of ’72, I drove north and west and down the California coast and across the Mojave Desert visiting spiritual leaders and communities of Holy Spirit renewal. Then to Europe at Francis Schaeffer ‘s L’Abri community and the Sisters of Mary at Darmstadt, followed by a second round with Molly and our children, also visiting Taizé in France.
The Deacons at home were largely supportive. I sought out guidance wherever I could and determined to be serious about this new Biblical Baptism by the Spirit. (John had said, “I baptize you with water, but He Who comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
In that day I contracted glaucoma. When my pressure was sky high, Molly and I drove to Mayo Clinic to see Dr. Brubaker. I did not know that a group of praying women of Colonial gathered that day to pray for me. But by the time I was tested at Rochester, the numbers had gone down from the middle twenties to a perfect 11 and 10 in both eyes and remained that way for 50 years. While I finally lost the sight of one eye, the other eye remained a perfect 20/20 with a pressure at 10 or 11.
In the same decade, my dermatologist discovered a malignant melanoma on my left foot. It was excised by an apprehensive young surgeon – and has never returned.
The “prayers of the faithful” have surrounded me many times when I maybe was threatened and in need. Mercifully, I still live. God uses Molly in wonderful ways, from constant prayer to daily care.
High risks did come. I went to Africa when that call came, and Molly went too. When parish ministry ended sadly for me and mine, a whole new call came to learn reconciliation, by God, through our World Vision friends. Molly and I were sent to Rwanda to work for peace and healing there and through the Great Lakes Region, following the horrors of the Genocide there. A ministry that began when I was 65 and lasted until I was 85 is still going on today through our successors.
With it came wonderful, wise leadership for Molly and the high adventure of our marriage. Todd and Mary Bertelson and Jim and Annette Olson have succeeded and greatly grown that Pilgrim Center ministry. And now, the work of reconciliation is more needed than ever.
We have learned, like Joan of Arc, to “dare, and dare, and dare until we die.” The Covid-19 days still demand risk. But, they remind us that the accompanying days with Jesus and His life in the Spirit, bring unspeakable joy. My earnest prayer is that you all will follow on to live daily and deeply with Him.
Your friend on the Way,
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES