Think back on the last few years, all that has happened: we crafted, debated and voted on a statement of welcome to people of “diverse racial and ethnic background, physical and emotional needs, sexual orientation and gender identity” that puts us on the roster of “Reconciled in Christ” congregations (thus the rainbow heart on our new signs) – and led in its way to our being willing to open our sanctuary to Grace Road Church. We began new ventures in spiritual growth, from Sanctuary for visitors, prayer and depression groups, to historical and now Womens’ Bible Studies. And we created Project Hope to help people effected by the economy, a thriving Loaves & Fishes ministry of hospitality to the homeless, and now concert fundraisers for the food pantry. Not to mention all the work on our buildings, communications and committee restructuring. And it hasn’t always been easy! Some of our planning didn’t seem to go anywhere; some of what we tried didn’t work. God shapes us even through our frustrations (see council article …)
We also crafted a mission statement: “we are a Christian community extending God’s love and compassion, welcoming all to share the joy of faith in Jesus Christ?” Much of our energy has been focused on different aspects of this mission. So what’s our vision for the next few years? As author Anthony Robinson puts it, “given our mission, what is God calling us to do in the near future? If mission is our ‘main thing’ then vision is our ‘next thing’.” How do we determine vision? God’s clear directives (see Matthew 28), our sense of the gifts God has awakened in this community, the situation we find ourselves in, and common sense certainly would all be factors.
The council and a “vision task force” have been exploring some ideas for vision and direction in the next few years. There will be some discussion time set for January, but we welcome your input at any time.
– First, what kind of community is St Luke becoming? One metaphor that we have found compelling (inspired?) is that of a garden or vineyard, as in Jeremiah 31:12 “their lives shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again” and John 15: “I am the vine, you are the branches, abide in my love.” We’re here to help one another grow and flourish in faith, love, joy and compassion.
– Second, if we are about “flourishing,” what does that mean for our general approach to ministry in this time and place? We recognize that people are stretched and stressed: we want church to be a place of nurture, support, and joy – not just more demands. For many, the primary place of “service” won’t be church but work and home life.
– Sunday is the “Lord’s Day” and our primary time together, especially when people are busy. Does our worship, educational hour and fellowship time reflect our mission statement? In the near future, we are planning a comprehensive look at our sanctuary space, with regard to arrangement, maintenance needs, accessibility, beauty, etc… Attention to worship and education “experience” in general requires constant attention.
– With regard to “welcoming all” the conversation has gone in two directions. First, let’s continue learning to embrace neighbors not simply as “potential members” but as friends and conversation partners who also “flourish” among us. The recent concert series benefit for the food pantry has been one great way to ally with neighbors over a common cause. Second, those who do want to learn the faith increasingly come from little or no church background. Let’s think through and strengthen our congregational practice of welcoming people to the faith, through the “Sanctuary” process and other means.
– Finally, we want to build on current efforts at “sharing the joy of faith” and “extending God’s love and compassion.” Two examples might be “Loaves & Fishes” ministry and Women’s Bible Studies – can we continue to improve how we do these things? Involve children in coloring bags to serve meals in? Supplement regular studies with biblical literacy “basics” courses?