June 1, 2018
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Grace and peace to you in the name of the One whose Spirit empowers the Church!
After several months of work by the Missional River team, we will be journeying together for the next weeks in a season of prayer in worship considering questions of what has changed in our lives as a congregation and as individuals. Our readings and sermons will begin by centering on on grief and God’s presence in the midst of it, then moving towards finding God who is already at work bringing hope beyond what we can see or even imagine. Our offertory will be somewhat extended as we pray and write responses that will be collected and shared together (without names or identifying information attached). There will be optional questions or prompts that apply to individuals for those who are not or were not part of our congregation or who don’t feel the community questions apply to them.
The questions will not only ask what is missing but will work to point in new directions. This season of prayer is the next step in the congregation’s Missional River discernment journey, as outlined in the Missional River Report and next steps recommendations with this mailing.
Each week, for those not able to be in worship, we will be sending the questions out via email (the same list as the weekly update that goes out). If you are not receiving that (it goes out most Thursdays from the firstname.lastname@example.org address), you can sign up via our website at www.flcsm.org OR contact the church office and be added. If you do not use email, contact the church office and we will come up with a way to allow you to respond.
We ask all members and participants to give these questions significant attention whether in worship or at home, and share your responses so we can hear one another. Speaking openly about what we hold inside takes away its power and opens up space for new things. At the end of this series on grief and renewal in this season of prayer, we will celebrate and recommit to a new way of relating and doing ministry. We will celebrate that with our mid-summer potluck on July 15. There we will break bread together, engage in conversation, and select priorities for our next months.
A wise mentor once told me “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” Another influential voice in my life, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, sums up his entire ministry of reconciliation in the title of my favorite of his books “No Future Without Forgiveness” which detailed the rebuilding of trust after apartheid. I truly believe that there is always a wall made from what has been, and that it blocks us from the future that God wants for us. Forgiveness and release is the only way through that wall. My prayer is that through honest sharing and a recommitment to renewing relationships and ministry, God will begin moving us through the walls that hold us back.
I ask each of you to put special prayers for our congregation in these weeks, that we can be renewed by looking briefly at our past but that our eyes are pulled toward a hopeful future. The “Holden Village Prayer” has always been a powerful one for me. I close this letter with a slightly modified version of it that is not about leaving or moving physically, but about seeking renewal and God’s purpose right where we are:
O God, you have called your servants to uncertain ventures, to new ways of being your people, to new paths of ministry, to meet persons unknown to us, to do in your name things we cannot imagine. Give us faith and courage, not fully knowing what we are called to do, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
In Christ, and in faith that the Spirit has plans and a future of hope,
MISSIONAL RIVER REPORT AND
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR NEXT STEPS
Since beginning our journey as the Missional River Team, we have completed these major steps:
- Listening to Scripture, particularly from Acts of the Apostles and the early church, and identifying values reflected there.
- Listening in the congregation, with particular attention to the most meaningful aspects of ministry. From that we identified what gifts we have collectively, and what values they communicate.
- Listening to the neighborhood, for what needs are out there, where God is present and waiting with opportunities for meaningful involvement, and what partners and assets might be in front of us that we did not know about.
Our purpose in this was to find places where all of those interests and values intersect, and what pathways might be open for meaningful connection and relationships to be built. These seasons of listening have led us to a next step in the congregation’s Missional River discernment journey in the congregation: Season of Prayer for Grief and Renewal.
Listening in the congregation, we found a high degree of commitment to excellent ministry around worship, music, and the arts. We also found interest within the congregation around feeding people. Finally we heard a desire to share the resources of space that we have and do not fully utilize.
The neighborhood has also told us that there is a significant level of poverty present right around us, that is often well hidden. We see real opportunities where those gifts, interests, and needs intersect. Two ideas that we believe should be pursued are establishing a community garden and working with already identified partners to establish a commercial kitchen that could be shared with the community.
In the midst of our listening in the congregation, we also heard a very real sense of loss over the last years, and anxiety about the future. There is also a lack of connection and deep relationships in the church family. We sense desire for new development, but we do not believe that our congregation is ready to fully tap into those things and move forward until we give some attention to the pain or sorrow that has come with the many changes not only in our congregation but also in our wider culture and community. There have been many changes, and change is hard. Something we learned as a team and believe applies to the entire congregation is that “All change involves grief” because all change, even good change, involves leaving something behind. This unspoken and unacknowledged grief has taken the energy out of the congregation and limits our vision for the future. We need to acknowledge grief and loss together as a congregation. This is a necessary first step to an intentional renewal of purpose, relationships and sense of community.
Enclosed, you will find a letter from Pastor Tim outlining a journey we will be making over the next several weeks, seeking community reconciliation, healing, and a vision for the future. We ask you to be in prayer and to participate fully as we seek renewal of our congregation and move towards connecting with the neighbors God would have us meet and serve alongside.