When we started our Moving Forward Process a year and a half ago, I was cognizant that there had been many efforts at revitalizing our church prior to this one. I spent some time talking with leaders of past efforts trying to learn from the past. One thing I took from those conversations was that our church had a pattern of evaluating the current state, identifying problems, and then going full throttle trying to address those problems–only to discover that after about a twelve to fourteen months of exerting all that energy the church was in roughly the same spot, just more worn out from all the expenditure of resources.
To me an image of all these church revitalizing efforts has been our church is like a moored ship. The church keeps trying to go somewhere and sometimes the efforts to move forward get us nowhere. Sometimes the mooring tether lets us go around that which we are tied to; giving us the illusion we are moving, only to eventually end up where we started and exhausted. I’ve not been naive to think that by some miracle this current effort would automatically net a different result. Nor have I thought so highly of myself that I could offer anything that could break the patterns of the past and release our mooring. The best I could do was advise leaders of what I have learned, name what I saw, dare to try again, and trust that the Spirit might cast off our moorings and let us sail in new waters.
What I am hearing from many who are on the ship are things like: “I love all the new energy.” “It nice to see new people.” “The church feels different.” “I haven’t felt this good in church in a long time.” I look around and I see many differences and improvements to our church too. Thanks in part to a lot of really hard work by so many lay folk. Also, I’m not hearing stories of how the past was so great that we need to go back to it and instead I’m hearing the excitement for what new thing God seems to be doing in our midst.
I’m starting to think we’re coming unmoored. These might really be new waters and not just the same waters our tether once let us pretend were new before.
We’re developing new relationships not just with our neighboring United Methodist Churches, but ecumenical relations in Geneva as well. We’re living into a new church infrastructure: staff, budget, smaller governance. Our budget deficit is the smallest it’s been in a long time and we’ve been current on our apportionments all year long. We’re willing to try new things to reach new people. Everyone is stepping up their effort to be hospitable and welcoming because nearly every week God sends us guests to worship. We’re tackling tough issues and conversations with charity and grace to better our church. It does feel new.
With more time I trust the status of our journey on the waters of baptism will become more apparent. With your continued prayer, presence, gifts, service and witness this ship will keep moving forward. And by God’s grace, we soon will look back and find the Spirit has unmoored us and indeed we’re on a whole new adventure.
Thank you for your hard work in moving us forward as a church!