From the beginning of the Church, as the Gospel moved from Judea to Asia Minor, to Europe and Africa and South Asia and eventually the Americas, how we practice and tell the story of our faith has been ever-changing. And with every change has come both fear and hope. The Church, especially in the United States, seems to be going through one of the larger transitions in how we gather, worship, do mission and share the Gospel.
The PC(USA) is certainly not immune to these changes, and with them, the fear and uncertainty, along with the hope and excitement at what is to come. But we are not mere bystanders in our practice of faith. We do not sit and simply watch God at work, but we are ever called into that work. Which is why it is important to change how we lead change and the conversations about that change.
The good news in this time of uncertainty is that there are lots of helpful resources to learn how to have these conversations and do church in new ways, even if we are not sure where to start.
Starting the Conversation
In our post on confirmation resources, we mentioned some of the rich resources that the Synod of Mid-America creates through their Theocademy efforts. These include resources for new members, confirmation students, and leadership teams such as Sessions of Elders and Boards of Deacons (though anyone who is interested is invited to watch and learn). In addition to these, there are other fun and informative series the Synod of Mid-America has put out on their YouTube Channel.
PC(USA) Co-Moderator Jan Edmiston recently reposted this 2014 Between Two Plants conversation between Jan and Synod of Mid-America Executive Landon Whitsitt, about the 21st century church, which is just as relevant today. It is just over half an hour, but well worth watching on your own, and with leadership teams interested in leading the type of change needed in our churches and other ministries right now.
PC(USA) Revitalization Initiative
The PC(USA)’s Office of Vital Congregations has just announced a new initiative focusing on the revitalization of congregations and presbyteries. And Newark Presbytery is one of the four pilot presbyteries! We will be hearing a lot more about this starting with our September 9 presbytery gathering, but here is a letter talking a bit more about this process, from our Director of Presbytery Transition, Rev.Barbara Smith.
Come To The Table
Another opportunity to start having these type of conversations is at the Synod of the Northeast’s Fall gathering – Come To The Table, September 22-23 at Stony Point Center. The theme of the event is “Feasting on Abundance,” which focuses on being faithful to Jesus in a time of upheaval, and living abundantly in a world that says there will never be enough.
Listen to Your Neighbors – LEAD
One of the things Jan and Landon mention again and again in the Between Two Plants conversation is needing to really go out and figure out who is in your neighborhood. So many long-standing churches have members who no longer live in the neighborhood around the church, and may not know the people in that neighborhood as well as they could or should. It can be intimidating to think about doing that work without some guidance.
An organization that is helping churches and middle governing bodies, like presbyteries, do that work well is LEAD (Living Everyday As Disciples). LEAD has a Tune In Process and other processes that help churches listen to their neighbors, and learn how to become a church out in the world instead of looking inward. LEAD comes out of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is dealing with many similar issues and changes in the PC(USA).
New Beginnings is another long-standing way for congregations to ask important questions and start conversations. There are congregations within Newark Presbytery who have used or are using New Beginnings to take an honest look at their futures. So, find out more about New Beginnings, and ask your neighbors about their experiences to see how it can help your congregation do transformational work.
Knowing where to start in addressing significant change can be difficult, but we hope these resources can help guide your way our of fear and uncertainty into hope (and uncertainty) and excitement.