Last month, as we concluded the preaching series on our recently identified core values, I conducted an informal assessment of where those in church that day felt we measured up. Roughly half in worship that day responded to the 1-5 rating and as you can see above, we think highly of ourselves. Anecdotally, I’d probably agree. In fact, this past week I was conversing with someone who recently started attending UMCG for worship and their comment was, “I just can’t get over how welcome people here have made me feel as soon as I enter the door.” At the same time, I think we’ve also had some honest criticism. One assessment respondent noted about our values of open-mindedness: “We value dialogue, but we don’t have it.” Another said of welcoming, “We are not welcoming enough of the LGBT community.” Anecdotally, I can think of specific instances where the above critical statements are legitimate. I also wonder how persons who have visited us once or twice in the past year or so but haven’t started attending regularly would rate us on our values. We could spend a lot of time refining our data, but I suspect the results would point to at least this conclusion: ‘we are not perfect, and we will always have room to improve.’ In my preaching on the gospel roots of these values I made sure to note how difficult it can be at times to live up to our own ideals.
So how do we move the needle in the direction we want it to go? We keep at it!
Throughout the year, we will be offering various ways to grow in our practice and embodiment of our values. Last month the Conflict Transformation Skills Workshop really helped develop some essential skills for open-mindedness. This month we are having a whole series of small things we can all do to be more welcoming, such as learning names and wearing name tags. Forthcoming, we will have occasions to build on our other values as well. We are in process — a sanctifying process — because these values are what fuel our grace-filled mission to “illuminate our community with God’s grace as we lovingly accept, listen to, and serve all in the Spirit of Jesus.”
Will we ever arrive at perfection? I don’t know, but if we do that would be cool! What I think is most important is that we keep growing in our capacity to: boldly love and accept people for who they are; invite our community into our home with open arms; share our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness; listen and act to bring healing and wholeness; value respectful dialogue; and transform our community through faithful acts of mercy and justice. WE engage in this pursuit of perfection, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith”  and recalling Christ’s promise, ““My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
 Hebrews 12:2 NIV
 2 Corinthians 2:9 NIV