Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What will St. Paul's will look like in 10 years?

This Wednesday Dec. 8 we have St. Nicholas Night and will take a night off from our regular classes. We will meet again Wednesday evening Dec. 15 for Part II (chapters 5-17, pages 77-218). Please join me at St. Paul's or here on this blog for more conversation about our parish, our mission, who we are and who we are called to become. Here are a few questions to guide your reading and our discussion:

1- When have you felt the closest to the divine at St. Paul's? When and how do you share that experience with others?

2- When and how have you felt God's beauty at St. Paul's?

3- What are the signposts of renewal at St. Paul's?

4- How can build a discerning community at St. Paul's? What does that look like for us?

5- How can we build a faith community centered on God's shalom? What does that look like for us?

6- How do we tell our individual stories?

7- What is our story as a community of faith? How do we tell our story to the world? How do we tell our story to each other?

8- How are lives transformed at St. Paul's?

9- Where is God calling us to go as a community of faith?

10- What do you think St. Paul's will look like in 10 years?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Questions for tonight: Part I and Our Taproot

Tonight we will discuss Part I, the first four chapters of Christianity for the Rest of Us. Here are a few questions I hope will spark our conversation, with page references to the book to assist you. Please feel free to comment on any or all of these questions here on this blog under the comments section (and comments will be moderated).

Here are tonight's questions:

1- What did church look like for you as a child or young adult? How did you first encounter God? (pages 15-20)

2- What is the best of our past at St. Paul's? What is our "taproot"? (pages 4, 22)

3- How does our tradition connect us to the past and to the future? (page 10)

4- What is the destination on our pilgrimage as a congregation? Where are we going? (page 11)

5- How can we be more comfortable and better skilled at navigating change in the world around us and in our church? (page 24)

6- Butler Bass writes (page 34): "Middles need to be periodically reinvented." What is our middle? What needs reinventing?

7- Do we have a "creative third way" between preaching Hell/damnation fundamentalism and capitulating to secular cultural values of consumerism and political power? (pages 35-36)

8- Butler Bass writes (page 38): "We are all pilgrims in a strange land now, exiles and immigrants in the new world of this post-everything age." How can we offer respite and hospitality to fellow pilgrims?

9- How does our way of being church make us more than a charitable service organization? How does worship, prayer, Scripture and service come together to transform lives at St. Paul's? (page 42)

10- What are the big important questions we ought to be asking? (page 51)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Please join us reading Christianity for the Rest of Us

Recently I asked a few people at St. Paul's to join me in reading Christianity for the Rest of Us, by Diana Butler Bass. I chose this book hoping to start a conversation about our mission and our future here at St. Paul’s. Why are we on this corner? What is God calling us to be in our second century as a parish? How will we live out our baptismal covenant to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”

Now I would like to invite you to read this book, and join me for conversation each Wednesday evening in Advent beginning on Dec. 1 at 7 pm following our community night dinner. If you can't make our gatherings on Wednesdays, let's continue this conversation on-line. I've set up this special blog for this book discussion.

Please leave your comments at the bottom of the posts each week. I will be moderating the discussion -- posts will need to be approved by me to prevent spam and non-topical comments.

The book surveys how 15 very different churches are living out their mission in their own particular way. Some are large, others small, but all are growing spiritually and inclusively as each hears God’s call to them. The book is not a statistical survey or a recipe guide for membership growth. Rather, Butler Bass takes us on a tour of what congregations can be when faithfully hearing God’s call and being courageous enough to act. All of these congregations have this in common: they began by recognizing not only who they are, but whose they are.

I am not asking us to critique the book, but to use the book as a catalyst for our own conversation about our mission as a parish. This is very informal; it is not a committee or a task force. It is not a focus group. We won’t be marking up butcher paper on the wall. I am not looking for recommendations to come from this. But I hope we will find insights from our collective wisdom and experience – and will be open to asking the deep hard question about our mission and ministry that we share together. And I expect we will hear a surprise or two along the way.

Let me tell you a little about the conversations I’ve had so far with a few people at St. Paul’s about the book.

We focused on a number of topics covered in the book, especially discernment of God's calling to us as a parish – how to know when we see it. We talked about the signposts, or markers, we see for how God is leading us in our faith community and in the community beyond our walls. We talked about hospitality and how we are called to be a welcoming community, and how we can build on this strength.

We did NOT engage in problem solving but rather offered ideas and observations about what discernment and hospitality looks and feels like especially to new people here in our parish. We grappled with how St. Paul's is a spiritual home to some, while others struggle to find their place here even after being here for many years.

One of the topics discussed in the book that resonates with many people is how discerning God's presence and guidance often feels non-linear. The destination is not always clearly in sight; the path is as important as getting there. “Discernment is an odd guide, however, for it not only points the way on the journey but it is a sort of destination in itself.” (p. 96)

Where this conversation is going I don't know, and that is also a marker of true discernment. I would like to keep this conversation going and growing, and continue walking the path with you as we see where God is leading our parish. Please join me in Advent in reading this book and being in conversation.

One more thing: Diana Butler Bass will be speaking at St. Paul's, Richmond, April 18-20, and I'd like us to go together to hear her speak. Click HERE for more information about her appearance.