Last week, I tried to give you an overview of where we are in our strategic planning process. If you have not yet had time to read that and are interested, you can find it on our website.
I wanted to make a couple of corrections to my article from last week. First, there is one more member of our 2020 Committee I failed to mention - Jan Nelson. Jan is the Chair of our Administrative Council and we're grateful for her leadership in so many areas of our church's ministry. And secondly, our 2020 committee met monthly through the year of 2016. That is certainly a great commitment from all these folks and we're grateful!
I mentioned in last's week's newsletter an acronym that has helped me organize my thinking as we discern together how to move into the future God has in store for us here at Centenary. That acronym was PEGS - Purpose, Endowment, Governance, and Staffing. This week, I want to think with you about our purpose as a congregation.
In organizational planning, people sometimes use various terms that may have slightly different connotations. Most organizations, whether a business, non-profit, or church, believe they need to have a clear understanding of who they are, what they desire to become, and what they believe they are called to do.
Regardless of what terminology we use, as a church we need clarity of purpose so that all the decisions we make about ministries, finances, facilities, and personnel are aligned with that purpose.
A simple way to put the question is, "Given our gifts as a congregation, and the mission field where God has placed us, what is God calling is to become and to do at this time and in this place?"
We do not have to start from scratch. We know that as God's people we are called to love God above all else and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Surely that should be part of our vision or purpose.
As United Methodists, we know that our mission is "to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." Unpacking that would certainly be worthy of some prayerful and thoughtful conversation.
At Centenary, we have other statements that have come from careful conversation and discernment. Our Reconciling statement states something about our identity as a congregation. It implies certain convictions of the expanse of God's grace and love, as well as certain virtues we need to cultivate and actions we need to be taking:
Centenary United Methodist Church is a Reconciling Congregation, extending hospitality and encouraging full participation of all, regardless of age, race, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, educational or economic background, and physical or mental ability.
I love this statement and continually pray that I can be the kind of Christian who can extend God's love in all these ways, and that we together are continually growing in God's grace so that we have the capacity to love in ways we'd never dreamed humanly possible.
In 2003, a Vision Task Force here at Centenary affirmed an existing mission statement. That statement stated:
The mission of Centenary is to be the central urban congregation of the United Methodist Church in Richmond Virginia; worshiping the living God, exemplifying the life and teaching of Jesus Christ through our fellowship and ministry and inviting all people to a personal Christian experience.
This is also a powerful statement. It affirms our historic commitment to urban ministry and it highlights worship, becoming like Jesus Christ, fellowship and ministry, along with our desire to invite all people to a life-changing relationship with God.
In 2003, that task force also stated: The vision of Centenary is to be a center of spiritual growth. It then proceeded to identify several goals that would move Centenary in that direction.
Also in that planning process, people said something that still very much resonates with many of us: "We yearn for a growing congregation. We yearn for increases in membership and attendance at worship. We yearn for more diverse, younger...membership."
In the recent gathering of our 2020 Committee and Administrative Council with John Wimberly, John asked that group to brainstorm around the question of what they thought our purpose was.
Here's what that group stated:
To serve God's community
To provide a safe and welcoming space for people to gather
Fellowship for those here and outside the congregation
Spiritual growth through worship, education and fellowship
Serve God in a downtown setting
Help people reconcile with each other
A place to help bring Richmond together
To explore spirituality and each other
To communicate with each other
To respect different paths to God and to serve the physical and spiritual needs of Richmond
Faith, Place, Outreach, Community
Reach people for the Gospel, be a place for God, worship, provide opportunities for mission, be a loving and supportive community
A word cloud from that exercised emphasized the words Community, People, Serve, and God.
We have much to work with. A task force, led by Jim Hill, is working to bring all this together into a new statement for this time and place that will guide us in the years to come and will help us communicate to those beyond our walls who we are, who we're becoming, where we're going, and what we hope to do in God's name. In August or September, we'll all be given the chance to respond to this group's work on our behalf and make our own contributions to this new statement of purpose. This is a tedious, and sometimes messy process. But it's important - and exciting to put ourselves in a place where God can speak a new word to us about God's will and purpose for us at this time and in this place.
P.S. I'm working on a sermon this week from Genesis 24 entitled "Working out the Promise." It's about the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. I'm trying to understand the way God works through flawed, ordinary people and through our small, everyday actions and decisions to work out the great promise of salvation for the world. I hope to see you Sunday!