Thursday, July 1, 2010

July 2010--Pastor Erik

A Season of Listening

This week we completed our first of four “Season of Listening” gatherings.  There were 40 people in attendance, plus a gaggle of kids.  We shared a meal together, and gathered in groups of 6 at small tables.  Joel Williamson, one of our soon-to-be newest members guided us through a process of story telling and story listening.  This first session focused on “stories of self”and gave us a chance to get to know one another on a level deeper than we usually tend to. We shared stories about what things in our lives gave us meaning, times when we felt like we were part of something significant, and how churches and other organizations centered on community gathering have impacted our lives (and the lives of our parents and grandparents).   And the stories flowed—powerful stories about what is most important to us and why.   And it wasn't long before the stories started to connect to one another and we saw how our lives intersect with one another in ways we never imagined. We also began to realize the broad experiences that people in our group share—differences that allow us to learn from one other.  And by the end, the general consensus was “Boy, was that fun!”

You may be wondering just what all this has to do with church, especially the conflicts we've been having lately over pews or the hard conversations we've been having about our financial situation and whether or not we'll be able to continue as a congregation.  I know some people attended expecting to dive deep into these issues (or others) and this event wasn't quite what they thought it would be.  And we will get into these issues, but first it's important for us to reconnect deeply as a community—to learn one another's stories and to appreciate one another.  The season of listening is not just listening to opinions and complaints, but listening deeply to one another's lives and drawing strength from one another.  Only then will we have the ability to face those things that seem to threaten to divide us.  Because in the end, the church is not the structure, the building (or furniture), or even the worship—but it is a community of people, who share and care for one another, who know and participate in one another's stories, and who make new stories together.  Through this Season of Listening we're seeking to reconnect, to get to know who we are as a community, and only through this will we be able to make the right sorts of decisions about where we are going, how we will worship together, and what sort of purpose God has in mind for us.

If you missed the first gathering, don't worry, there are three more: July 14, July 28, and August 11.  All these events go from 6-7:30pm and include dinner and childcare.  There is a shape to the four weeks and they build off of one another, so everyone is encouraged to attend all four sessions, but if you can only make it to some, please come. We'll be shifting into “stories of us” (who we are as a congregation and what our shared values are) and then into “stories of now” (who God is calling us to be).  Then in late August or early September we'll have a big celebration to reflect together on what we've heard from this Season of Listening and what we want to do about it.  

If you are interested in helping to plan and lead these events, a group is meeting on Sunday after each Wednesday event to reflect on what we heard and to help shape the future events.  Talk to Pastor Erik, Dennis, or Leona if you'd like to participate in this (or just show up).

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