There is nothing Hope Central Church ought to be doing, there is no need to get things right or wrong, there are no correct amount of services we ought to be holding – two services or one, except this: We ought to be loving God with our whole hearts, bodies, minds, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Yup, that’s what Jesus told us.
If Hope Central were a theatre, we’d have as many services as we could, even if the services were sparsely attended because we’d by trying to make money or get popular by showing something gritty or romantic or action filled – with great music – we’d be trying to get folks in the door to eat our popcorn and to entertain them. But we’re not a theatre.
If we were a concierge service, we’d be hopping to, making sure every covenant partner, every person who understands themselves to be a part of Hope Central had their every need met, delivering what each person liked most, and doing it when they want it. But we’re not a concierge service.
If we were a family, we’d be doing things the way we’d been doing things for generations, even if Uncle Earl and Aunt Mae were always absent/drunk/raging/giving of themselves too much, but we’re not exactly a family.
What we are is a community in a particular time and place, seeking ultimate meaning, moving toward the heart of God, and repairing the world. We have pledged ourselves to each other, some of us formally. We are becoming community – like God we are becoming what we are becoming. We are not fixed in some ideal past or future – we are constantly becoming!
What the work of becoming is, is not a process of getting things right or wrong, not getting the right amount of services, or the right Biblical translation. What the work of becoming takes is imagination, re-imaging questions, answering for the moment, and turning things over to the REALITY of the DIVINE, in which we want to live and move and have our being.
What the work of becoming requires is a tolerance for some anxiety, not huge anxiety, but the willingness to hold in tension what we need/want and what the community needs/wants when the community is seeking a way. We are able to be a community becoming when we are willing to be learning, flexible, seeking, taking joy in the practice of curiosity.
The work of becoming requires a tolerance for opinion, expression of pain and joy, expression of need without defensiveness, or rushing to fill or meet the need of another so all can appear calm. We have differing abilities to respond or not respond so that the person or our community may blossom. We have different abilities to ask or give. So with God’s help, we develop a kind of equanimity, a kind of beautiful way of knowing each other – of honoring each other by seeing each other as we are and as we are being made glorious.
Courtney preached last week, and you can hear her sermon on our website. She told us that we are enough – somewhere between the dust from which we were made and the wearers of crowns of glory. By this rubric, we do not need to get things right or wrong for ourselves or others, but we do need to see what God will make of us as individuals and as community.
Our growth will depend on following a vision of deepening our spiritual practices, developing a tolerance for some anxiety, but not rushing in to sooth chronic anxiety (instead ask a new question about that chronic anxiety), and developing a willingness to follow our curiosity about God’s doings among us. But most importantly, our work is to understanding that we each have something to be and do on behalf of the community that arises from our best selves. The growth and health of our congregation depends on us expecting and supporting the work that comes from our best selves, our essence from God’s essence, as often as we can, and working to heal the rest.
So this is what we are doing about our services – we are in conversation with each other. A group of us are actively meeting to discern God’s work for us, and we are discerning how to match our very real resources of people, time, treasure to what we believe God is calling us to do.
Here’s another thing – our congregation, size wise, is in a text book place. We’re too big to do somethings and too small to do other things. Our number of Covenant Partners is right at 120 and we have another 30 people or so who haven’t become Covenant Partners, but who understand themselves to belong to us. This size transition, from less than 150 to more than 150 people is hardest to negotiate. But we’re alright. We’re staffing for growth, asking the right questions about how much and which activities and how much rest, and praying for God’s leading.
Here’s what we all can do – show up for services. Invite friends. Read our Bible – start with Psalms and maybe get a children’s Bible to get some of the basic stories. Pray with words, silence, motion, music. Have some fun, do some art, be joyful.
If you’re interested in what I’m reading, please see Alice Mann’s book, The In-Between Church: Navigating Size Transitions in Congregations, Peter Steinke’s, How Your Church Family Works: Understanding Congregations as Emotional Systems – this loaned to me by Courtney Jones (thank you!), Edwin H. Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix and Psalm 139.