When I asked myself this question – “What’s a good church for?” – I found I had a lot of different responses, and ended up writing a very long blog posting, too long to digest at one sitting. So I’ve decided to send it out in “pieces,” in four sections: the first, “What do we need to let go of?”; the second, “What’s our core purpose?”; third, “So what about core values?”; and finally, “Let’s keep praying.” I look forward to hearing your thoughts about these questions.
#1 What Do We Need to Let Go Of?
What’s the purpose of your congregation, the vision, the “why”? Oh, your church is busy doing a hundred and one things, and all of them good and even important… but do you know what the essentials are, the priorities, the “treasure” in the earthen vessel? As Pegi Ridout said in a comment on a previous blog posting, “We have expended a great deal of corporate energy on “how.” To ask “why” is a more powerful and motivating question and draws us deeper.”
Sometimes we’re not clear about what’s essential until we’re forced to let go of stuff – “the way we used to do it.” I think that’s what’s happening for the United Church these days – a bit like down-sizing, moving from the familiar family home, where you raised all the kids, and now, into a condo perhaps, an apartment, a shared home, or a residence… or maybe putting everything into storage and setting off into a new adventure.
There’s a fine poem by Francis Dorff – “Lightening the Load,” – which talks about dumping all unnecessary baggage off the camel if we want to get through the desert alive, eventually letting go of even the camel itself. Then, the poet says (and this is what I find exciting), we might be free enough to catch a glimpse of a “burning bush,” which is to say, the “letting go” is not just an unwelcome necessity, not an end in itself, but rather, an opportunity to catch a fresh glimpse of God and mission.
I wonder what you take with you when you’re heading into the wilderness? I think about Jesus sending out his disciples, described in this Sunday’s gospel reading, with instructions to take no bread, no bag, no money… only a staff and the gospel message. I also remember Jesus talking about the vine and the branches, and the need for some serious pruning.
So… for you, and for your congregation… what do you need to let go of?
Photo: Tony Frates, Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).