I began planning for this weekend a year ago. I do that sometimes, begin planning for the next event just as the current one is ending. I think about what I want to say in a sermon the next week, having just finished preaching in another. Of course it doesn’t always work out the way I plan. I might find five other things that need to be said. I might forget what I thought about. Or the entire situation might change, requiring a new perspective. Often, as is the case this weekend, I have to blend the plan from a year ago with new information. Weaving and blending is a big part of my job. The annual Vestry Retreat begins tonight, the end result of a year of work mixing it up with some new stuff – like adding time in tonight’s agenda for the delegation’s report on their trip to Liberia.
The work we began last year is the process of creating Mutual Ministry. The work we need to continue into this year includes creating a Mutual Ministry Review. Last year we embraced the idea that we are a “Community-Centered” church. By this we acknowledge that people come into our building and use it in ways that enable their ministries in the world to come alive. Some civic organizations have office space in our building. We have a preschool. We have AA groups. We Scout troops and dance classes, martial arts and stretching classes. All of these combined make for a busy building. And, we don’t charge rent. I don’t like the idea of charging rent because I do not want us to be dependent upon the income from the groups. Needing their rent to support our operating budget changes the relationship and dynamic between us and these groups. I prefer to think of them as part of our mission and ministry. They regularly offer us a donation, which helps to offset some of the expenses of heat and electricity and human power for setting up tables and taking them down. Being a community centered church is one reason we offer the annual Holiday Market, a place for local artists to come, free of charge, and sell their artwork.
We also go out into the world and tend to a variety of ministries. We work in soup kitchens and homeless shelters. We participate in a backpack ministry feeding hungry children over weekends.We have a community garden.
And now we have this project in Liberia. From all of this the Vestry has formed the concept of Mission Fields – building off of an organic, garden themed model of ministry.
This weekend we spend time considering what fields need to be tended too, what fields need to developed, what fields are doing well on their own, like mature orchards, and only need a little attention now and then, and what fields need to lay fallow for a time. We work look at how we, as the Vestry, are the gardeners of the mission fields. This means becoming more intentional with our work as leaders while at the same time enabling members of the congregation to grow in their ministries as gardeners of our mission fields. Mutual ministry will be lead by the Vestry but include others, too. Much of this weekend has been in the work since our vestry retreat ending last year. But now we have this ministry in Liberia, a project which, if we take it on, will mix things up a lot.
Weaving and blending in the art of being a community centered church.
I look forward to this weekend and what comes from it.