It’s been three months since I started working full-time as the Director of Missional Renewal in our diocese. The first month or so focused on understanding the new role, getting to know leaders throughout the diocese, and starting to engage with congregations.
I have been grateful for opportunities to preach, to facilitate conversations, workshops, and processes in parishes, while simultaneously working in the background on the Implementation Plan our diocese approved at Synod earlier in 2023. The implementation plan, approved as a companion piece to a provisional “Values, Vision, and Mission,” outlines a plan by which the communities of this diocese can support one another as we seek to participate in God’s mission of love, reconciliation, and justice in the world.
As disciples of Jesus, God invites us to come together and listen for the liberating word of the God who still speaks today. As we gather together in prayerful listening; as we turn our attention to the needs in our communities; we discern together what faithful witness to God in Christ looks like. It’s not magic. It’s not about learning the right formula or program. It’s about listening deeply and intentionally for God and serving Jesus as we encounter him in our neighbours and neighbourhoods.
I was recently meeting with a congregation discerning their next faithful steps. As we were discussing the congregation’s energy level, the programs it had sustained in the past, and the challenges of building maintenance, a member of the group shared an image they had been toying with. “This moment,” they said, “is kind of like realising the kids aren’t moving back home.” It’s not easy. There are memories wrapped up in rooms and photos, in toys now boxed and in the closet. There are memories of a house once busy and full, memories that bring happiness and joy. The leader continued, “The problem is, I’m just worried we’re going to spend our pension heating all these rooms we don’t use any more.”
There are multiple solutions to this challenge, of course. Each solution requires prayerful discernment.
And yet, at the heart of our challenge is this: in the midst of all that we are facing, do we believe that God still speaks? Do we believe that God still loves? Do we believe that God will still act in our midst for the good of God’s people and the good of Creation?
There are plenty of times I worry that we have (wrongly) believed that numbers are an indicator of God’s favour. Yet throughout the scriptures, God regularly works with small groups of faithful people “to do more than we can ask or imagine.” God works with misfits and remnants. God works with migrants and refugees. God works with outcasts and sinners.
Numbers are numbers, but if God is anything, God is faithful.
God works with you and me. When two or three are gathered, we are reminded, God is there. God speaks. God acts. God acts through small groups of people to bring healing, liberation, and hope to a world hurting, captive, and downtrodden. All of which is to say that while the church is facing a variety of challenges, we have faced challenges far greater over the last two thousand years. In it all, God has been faithful. God is faithful. God will remain faithful.
Our challenge, then, is this: how might we gather in ways that empower us to vulnerably open our lives to God and to one another? How might we be transformed in heart, mind, soul, and strength? How might we cultivate thriving communities, of any size, who embody and bear witness to God’s love through Christ for all of Creation?