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Wow.  Thanks, David!  This sparks my thinking about the role of deacons at classis and synod.  How can the deacons help us as assemblies and as a denomination, to infuse this servant-hood into our life together in our neighborhoods, cities, towns, and nations?  If ever our world needed to experience fearless incarnational service, it's now.   

     Back in the day, we all were aware of the phenomenon of "changing neighborhoods".   People left, churches left, and then those who came next experienced the irreversible decline of the systems and networks that are the vessels and sinews of healthy community.  It was an incredibly complicated tangle  of social, economic, religious dynamics, and the church basically walked away.... or in some cases ran. I think we thought we could give up on some of the square inches over which Jesus is Lord.

 It feels like the cities of the nations are experiencing something like that today.  Societies are at risk of being overwhelmed by the needs of people pressing to be allowed in.  Systems can't cope.  Cultures can't assimilate that fast.  Those with resources leave the turmoil  and walk away.  And we all watch as things unravel.  Some of us try to help.  Unless the Spirit of Jesus the Servant pervades the global church, the Church may again find itself out in suburbia, where things may feel a little better.... for a while.  What does radical servant-hood mean for the Church today?  

If the Church in North America is in fact being challenged by the secularizing of our society as never before, surely we are also being challenged to renewed commitment by the global themes of war, ecological decline, prejudice, and homelessness on a scale we couldn't have imagined.  We simply cannot respond only as individuals or congregations. We are called to be many members unified in large scale responses, so that systems and cities, populations and nations, may turn toward justice and mercy.  That means that we'll have to discern as assemblies, as a denomination among sister denominations, what needs to be done.  By us.  And then we'll have to follow the Spirit to think bigger, speak wiser, and work humbler, and get more done.

David, you have been at this for a lifetime.  Thank you.  And may God continue to use you.


ibemeubu's invitation to share stories is interesting because it makes me realise I know of so few from first hand experience.  That again makes me wonder, as I've wondered so often before, whether the institute/organism distinction has too often served us as a reason to avoid advocacy altogether. 

Anyhow, I do recall a time when members of my congregation got involved in trying to advocate to have the city retain local fire stations near the city center.   We held a press conference in the Church, and we appeared before the city's planning commission.   The congregation had not formally taken any position, and we did not pretend we were speaking for our congregation, but we did make it clear that our concerns related to our concern for our community/ parish.  That was a satisfying experience and to this day (30+ years later) some of those local fire stations remain.

I think it's the church's responsibility to advocate for rational and loving and informed social discourse on tough issues. And to model that in the way we deal with the tough issues internally!   I think the church (and I mean the institutional church as well as the church as organism) needs to help shape social justice conversations by showing how to be passionate and prophetic while being reasonable and respectful.  I think the church needs to press for high quality debate in the neighborhood, in the media, in the cofffee room, and in the council room. 

Grand Rapids is in the roll-out period of a large initiative to increase the percent of high school kids who graduate.  It's privately funded, and it's wholistic, and it's long term.   The public school system, businesses, neighborhood organizations, and families and churches will be engaged.    Should congregations engage formally?  I guess that is debatable, but I lean toward answering Yes.   It's a justice issue, and it's sure to get political if it's got any validity at all, but it's very urgent, and I think bi-partisan.  So I tend to think it's an example of a place to make an "exception".   

What do others think? 

Steve, is your husband into fishing? I know a woman who's big into justice, and HER husband is big into fishing..... Could there be a connection?

How to stop feeling trapped and frustrated, and instead see the situation as a fresh learning opportunity -- that's the strategic move I see opening up as I read these notes on Rendle.  I breathe a sigh of relief.  I don't have to see this situation (whatever it might happen to be) as something to endure, a contest to be fought; instead I can get on the balcony and see it as an opportunity to actually BE and PRACTICE being the Community of Christ - learning together, trying out something new, encouraging and supporting each other as we take risks.     Oh man is that ever idealistic!   And at the same time so biblical.  Maybe change is possible after all!   With minimal destruction.   OK, ready to get down from the balcony and engage again.  

Good stuff. thanks.
When churches/ deacons/ pastors "head out", tension in the fellowship is almost inevitable. Conflict, or fear of it, tends to make us hesitant about the journey outwards. I'd love to hear some stories from around the CRC that help us see how to manage the conflict while we seek to be obedient to the mission of Jesus.

Tears are coming.... the beauty of the promises touches my own memories of losing a daughter a year ago to leukemia.  The promises are so good, and the earthly reality is sometimes so very painful.   This is an  incredibly deep and many layered Psalm, and it speaks to situations that are indeed too painful for words.   Is there any situation or experience that is so awful that God is absent?   Only that  one time on Calvary, and never again.   Thanks be to God.  Thanks, Jim, for preaching it, and for sharing it.  

Here's a question that I'm wondering about as a result of reading Peter Block's book COMMUNITY, and reading Synod 2010 decision on Overture 16:

What behaviors will I engage in today that contribute to the changes in the deaconate that I long for?

Powerful story! The community at its worst - and best. I'm reading Never Call Them Jerks, by Arthur Paul Boers. It feels like we have such a long way to go on the road to healthy leadership of healthy communities. But I guess that road of forgiveness and restoration can't be a superhighway; it runs through real life with all its construction work, local traffic, breakdowns, detours, coffee shops, and neighborhoods. In the midst of this excellent post, one sentence troubles me: "... it may not be prudent and it should not be legal to pursue vocational restoration." OK, a part of me says that makes sense. Another part of me wonders if that pulls the rug out from under the potential for full confession, forgiveness and healing.... Please keep writing about leadership, Jim!

Good suggestions here!  I'd like to add The Deacons' Handbook, by Lori Wiersma and Connie Kuiper VanDyke, available from Faith Alive.

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