This is a note to encourage you not to get weary, not to lose heart, as we slowly work our way through this all-church conversation about past, present, and future, and while we endure the deprivations of the pandemic.
Were we not constrained by the pandemic, we would be having all-church meals and I would be leading these conversations in the Meeting House and dividing you up into discussion groups and we would all be together in this. What we’re doing with the Transition Team and the seven small groups is a necessary alternative.
Besides the survey that went out last fall, there are four formal parts to this process. They are: looking back at what led you to this point; sitting still and listening to one another and God’s voice (this is maybe the hardest part because it requires you to “be still and know that I am God” and to wait in ambiguity and un-knowing); dreaming and imagining where and to whom Jesus is sending you out; and having an honest conversation about the unwritten rules of the church to help you think about your life together.
The notes from those conversations and the survey results will be enough for a search committee to use to start looking for a pastor.
That’s not the end, though. In an ideal world, a church is always learning from the past, listening to God in prayer, following where Jesus leads, and being honest about your life together. You don’t get an answer and stop. God is always leading you to learn and grow.
What I plan to do after we can gather for meals again is to use some discernment and planning tools to invite you to continue thinking about why you’re here. I don’t know when that can happen. It depends on when the risk of gather is low enough that most people are comfortable getting together.
One way to look at this process is that what you get out of it is proportional to what you put into it. If you approach a small-group conversation with the attitude that you don’t like it or don’t understand it or it’s too much work, or all you want to do is to get back to what you were comfortable with, you won’t grow, and whatever emotional and spiritual fall-out there is left from the past will remain unprocessed and unhealed.
The restrictions of the pandemic are frustrating, and we all want to get back to being able to gather freely. We all miss the life we remember. But that’s not what this study process is about. I’m asking you to listen to the murmurings of the Spirit and the call of Jesus to grow and to follow in the years ahead, no matter what form it takes.
So please spend this time wisely. In one way, you’ve been given a gift – time away from normal routines, a retreat you didn’t choose but which you’ve fallen into, an opportunity to sit still and listen, to say, “Lord, speak to us; lead us; help us to follow you.”
In hope for renewal,