At a recent retreat, church council members and liaisonsvwere asked to think about experiences of transformation: when everything changed for me and I became a new person in some way. “What happened to enable or provoke this experience? Did it have anything to do with church? Faith? Compassion?”
These questions came out of a book we have been reading together, “Transforming Congregational Culture” by Anthony Robinson. Robinson talks about how churches once functioned as places to learn morality, to organize opportunities for charity, and especially as centers for family and community – all important roles, says Robinson, but today you can find these opportunities apart from the church. It’s time for us to reclaim
the church’s central mission: to help each other find new life – “transformation”- together in God’s grace.
That day at the retreat council members began sharing stories of transformation, whether in their own lives related to work and relationships, or even what people have seen happen at St Luke through God’s power. Time ran out pretty quickly. We just scratched the surface. And how many more powerful stories are there to hear at St Luke? That question was raised in other ways as the conversation turned to planning. “Do we really know what people at St Luke are experiencing? What they might be struggling with, or what God has to do with it?” We talked about ideas for a new Women’s Bible Study and a way for young parents to get connected. One of our youngest council members even expressed interest in doing a St Luke History project – interviewing some of our long time members, recording stories of hard and inspiring times, as a way to understand the community better and feel more at home.
When I hear your “testimony” about how you experienced God present or absent, I see my own experience in a new light – that itself can be transforming. How can we learn to do this better?
Let “transformation” be the theme for Lent and Holy Week this year. Indeed, from the beginning the purpose of Lent was to encourage new “catechumens” to seek new life, so they could understand what they were saying at their baptism (at the Easter Vigil): “I renounce the devil … I believe in God.” In this spirit, during Lenten soup suppers we’ll ask five people to share their testimonies of transformation.
In general, as a Pastor I have come to believe that the experiences and the questions that are most powerful – that people most need to hear – are often also the hardest things to say. God give us the voice to say these stories and insights, and the ears to listen!