I sometimes say "y'all" at home in Vacationland, but it really feels necessary here in Hotlanta, even if the weather is relatively cool and rainy.
The New Church Leadership Institute is great, thus far, so engaging that I never got my knitting out once today. I generally need the handwork to keep my head focused in lectures, but today the material engaged me, particularly the lecture this morning by Donna Allen.
Acknowledging a call to New Church ministry scares me a little but excites me a lot at the same time. Allen's talk, which had elements of a sermon, too, asked the question, over and over, "Why plant new churches?" After all, plenty of existing churches have room for more people, right?
But the dwindling of mainline churches suggests it's time to begin again, I believe. The Bible, full of stories of communities needing to start over, holds ancient wisdom, images that help us see not the specifics of what we need to do to be the faithful but the underlying and overarching call to reach others with the message of God's love.
Can we, can church people, reach out to share that love with the disillusioned, the disappointed, the disenchanted and the disconnected? I think we can, if we open ourselves to simplifying.
Allen quoted a favorite passage this morning:
Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.
Make it plain. That's the challenge, to strip away the layers and layers of denomination and local history and "we've always done it this way" and my own muttley background of Southern Baptist and Methodist and Presbyterian churches and six years in Episcopal school. It's the challenge for my colleagues working in new churches with people who use to be Church of Christ or Church of God or AOG or Nazarene or Pentecostal or Apostolic. So many people find their way to the UCC from a place of rejection or injury. We have our own intramural squabbles, our Congregational polity bumping up against the more hierarchical and organized tendencies of our E&R side. But the complexities of new congregations made up of so many different strains compel us to determine what is essential. What really matters?
Write the vision.
Make it plain.
It needs to be that simple.
If I figure out how to do it, I'll let you know…