Times of transition and conflict are difficult. COVID-19 and racism are affecting our communities and our churches, and the church finds itself in the midst of transition. Who are we and what are we called to be?
As deacons, you are in the midst of these questions, especially as it relates to life with community. So in this transition maybe it is time for a Reordering of life together.
I found a blog post from Mike Mather, pastor of Broadway UMC church in Indianapolis. Broadway was in a time of transition, and the church made two movements as they reordered life together:
Toward listening for what church and community members care about and the gifts that they bring to life together.
Toward organizing to make sure that what comes out of conversations is acted upon. They got rid of “program” committees and raised up “animators” who asked discerning questions, identified stumbling blocks, and prayed and encouraged people to act on what they heard.
This listening to and organizing in response to what they heard helped to revitalize that community’s life together. Pastor Mather said, “It lifted our spirits, reminded us of the goodness and richness of lives, prioritized what is important, identified what we care about, and reminded us, we are not alone.”
What if instead of being seen as “charity” churches—those that do good in our communities, we made a transition to being seen as “ investment churches”—churches who will invest in dreams with the community.
Broadway church did this through lament and celebration. They lamented the pain and hurt their community faced and the ways they contributed to it, and then they celebrated three things. First, they celebrated and put to rest the things that they had done in the past but no longer were effective. Second, they celebrated the ministries that were continuing because the community decided they were still real and relevant. Third, they celebrated the ministries that were beginning because people had passion for them.
But it all started with listening. Can we listen?
Listen—outside our walls as well as inside.
Listen—to learn about people’s hurt and their gifts—their interests, passions, and where they are ready to act.
Listen—to see the church’s struggles and assets—it’s gifts (land, facilities, people, etc.) that can be used to neighbor well.
Listen—for the community’s pain and assets—it’s rich diversity, beauty, possibility.
Reordering life together is a movement toward listening and being part of an unfolding of what God is doing and intends to do.
When I entered Broadway UMC a few years ago, I was struck that the hallways were lined with photos. Not of previous Pastors, but of neighbors. Each photo had the person's name and listed their contribution/gifts to neighborhood improvement. The church really celebrated neighbors' Kingdom contributions. Beautiful!
Jay - thanks for sharing that. I LOVE that they honored and celebrated their neighbors and neighborhood like that. Truly WITH their community.
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