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A Pastoral Word about our Congregational Meeting Saturday 1/17/15

posted Jan 13, 2015, 9:57 AM by David Cobb
As pastor of Spirit of Joy I'm grateful for the prayers, the spiritual commitment, and the expertise that have been coming together over the course of this past year as we prepare to leave our adolescence and enter into young adulthood as a congregation. We are 15 going on 16, and in church life-cycles, that means we're about to make some significant decisions that will shape our future.

We know adolescence is a difficult time in our personal lives. We face decisions about who we are, who are friends are, what paths to pursue, which doors to open and which ones to close. We experiment with different styles of clothes, music, and language. We drive our parents a little bit crazy. Our idealism ramps up to fever pitch, along with our judgment of others and ourselves. But at the same time, we feel deeper compassion and tolerance for others than we've ever felt. We become aware of our own limitations while feeling invincible. We feel the deepest betrayals cutting our heart in two while simultaneously falling passionately in love.

It's fortunate that all of us who are adults were 15 once. But it's also fortunate that we didn't stay that age forever. Who could sustain it?

To complicate matters, we bring our own individual coming-of-age to our church community. You may remember we explored family-of-origin issues in some depth last winter and spring, discovering how our own upbringing still shapes our spiritual lives and frames our expectations and experiences of the church today. 

Thankfully, we bring our own adult faith experiences with us, too. We're our own older mentor as our community comes of age. Individually we have walked this path before. We bring the self-reflection and spiritual strength of the older self we know in our 20s, 40s, 60s, and 80s, to walk beside the emerging "self" that is Spirit of Joy at 15.

This Saturday is an important day for us. Thirty-five of us have been directly involved in one of our four focus groups since September and many more have been involved indirectly. The ongoing work of these groups has explored in spiritual and practical matters the main things involved in Selling the Property or staying in it, articulating our Identity and Mission, nurturing Healthy Stewardship, and Finding New Space. These groups will be sharing tonight in Ministry Council and on Saturday at our Congregational Meeting what they have discovered so that we can discuss it all together and reach consensus about our next step together as a congregation.

Here's what we know so far.
  • We have become reluctant to pour more financial or human resources into our building, because it has become an increasingly difficult place to be who we are called to be. If consensus is measured as much by our behavior as by the words we say, we are in consensus that our building and our ministry are not currently compatible.
  • We have also made clear that whatever we decide, we want to stay together as a community. Strong feelings have been expressed in the last year that our future depends on what we decide about our building: 
    • Should we put more resources into our current building to make it a great tool for our ministry? or 
    • Should we find another place that will help us follow our calling more effectively and faithfully?
  • We know this. We are called to be a community that stimulates inquiring minds, nurtures contemplative souls, and engages compassionate hearts in ministry for others.
  • Our financial stewardship is healthy and strong when it comes to supporting ministries that are in line with our calling; but it is weak when our energy is tied up in caring for our building. 
  • We now have a better handle on the costs we face in bringing our building into the kind of shape that supports our mission. We also have some idea of the costs related to moving into new space, as well as possibly sharing space with another congregation.
Ongoing updates from each of our four groups have been included in the weekly emailed announcements for the last few months and shared in worship. An email with a summary of the four group's findings will be sent to all church members this week. Then at our Saturday event, which will be held at Church of the Apostles in Burnsville where we launched this discovery stage of the process back in September, we will discuss our path forward together.

If we decide on Saturday that we are in consensus, our next step will be clear. I look forward to taking it with you.

It's good to be in ministry with you.

Blessings and Peace,