Spirit Alive: That's Not All Folks, Part 2
Spirit Alive: That's Not All Folks, Part 2
Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog that looks at different aspects of mission and ministry throughout the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference and beyond.
June 26, 2018
With Heart, Soul, and Mind:
Becoming a Church on the Move...
"'Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love."
"Man's (sic) capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's (sic) inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary."
"The sad duty of politics is establishing justice in a sinful world."
American Pastor, Professor, and Prophet , 1892-1971
After posting last week's Spirit Alive, I received a number of emails from folks saying how excited they were to be a part of the kind of church I was describing.
While in Boise, I wanted to share a story with those gathered there about something I recently experienced. However, there was simply not enough time to do this given our very full schedule. So, let me share that story with you now.
A few months ago, I was at a church event and someone, who works as a consultant to congregations and annual conferences, said something like this to me: "Because of the deep divisions in the church, a lot of annual conferences seem to be preoccupied by what is going to happen next. In fact, at times some of them are so distracted by what might happen next that they are unable to focus on their current ministries. Sometimes people even seem to be stuck. But, Lowell, your annual conference doesn't appear to be distracted in the same way. Instead, your conference is focused on the ministries you are engaged in and you guys are even creating new projects undeterred by the deep divisions in the church. What's going on with you folks?"
The fact that over 1,000 people signed up to participate in Table Talks in 30 locations in the Greater NW Area in the past three months...that we spent three additional hours in Table Talks 2.0 in Boise...that we are creating new ways to be in dialogue across cultures...and that we are continuing to develop a network of practitioners working on the principles of Radical Compassion says that we want to be an open and conversational church.
That we made a decision a year ago to establish an Abundant Health Initiative, created an active AH work team with Emilie Kroen as the Team Lead, and that we have hired Rev. Marshall Wattman-Turner as the part-time Abundant Health Coordinator to begin a listening process that will hopefully lead to us establishing an annual conference network around health and wholeness, says that we want our people and communities to live well in mind, body, and spirit.
That we spent significant time at annual conference last week returning some land at Wallowa Lake Camp to the Nez Perce Tribe...that the Ministry Leadership Team has created a work team to develop a proposal to address the affordable housing crisis in our midst and convene a summit this summer to look at this issue...that we've hired a part-time LGBTQ Advocacy Coordinator, Brett Webb-Mitchell, thanks to a grant from The Collins Foundation, to help us deepen our understanding and advocate for this vital issue, and that we continue our work with Israel/Palestine by having a Holy Land Task Force to guide us in this work...says that we care about matters of justice and are dedicating our time, talent, and resources to address the real issues of our time.
And finally...that we are creating new places for new people in Boise, Portland, Salem, Eugene, Bend, among other places...that we are developing an Ecology of Transition and holding Transition Retreats for those experiencing changes in appointment, that we will be holding a summit this fall to look at how to best align our collective resources to maximize our efforts and initiatives in this ever-changing mission field...says that we want to align our assets and structures so that we can truly make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
This is the kind of church we are becoming....And we need to be about such things as a church....no matter what happens at General Conference in February 2019...and no matter what we look like institutionally as a result.
This makes me think about being a part of a recent vigil that was held at the federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon. This is the site where 123 immigrant men are being incarcerated without having access to lawyers or pastoral support through chaplains or clergy. Seeing this kind of injustice take place within our communities demands that we are clear about who we are as a church...and determine if, as Christians, we are courageous enough to stand up and act with a sense of compassion and peace.
When women step forward through the #MeToo campaign to shine the light on the issue of sexual harassment and abuse and say "No more," we need to be prepared, as people of faith, to listen and then respond in ways that are healing and redemptive...and that restore a sense of wholeness among us.
When the children of our communities tell us that they are tired of being afraid to go to school because of the gun violence that we allow to continue, we need to know how to bring a spirit of Christian love and compassion to the conversation.
If are aren't being the kind of church we want to be now, then we simply won't be ready to be a part of the solution. And if we aren't creating real-life images of the kind of church we are, then we will have nothing to point to when people ask "What do you believe?"...or "Who are you?"
Maybe it is as the saying goes, "We are the ones we have been waiting for."
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