Dear Centenary Family,
It is hard to believe that July 4 is upon us! In many ways, at least in terms of the church year, I feel like Holy Week and Easter were just yesterday.
Perhaps one reason for that feeling is that we have been diligently working on discerning God's will for our future mission here in downtown Richmond. That task has been demanding but exhilarating at the same time. I want to bring you up to date on where we are in our work and let you know how the process of crystallizing our sense of direction will unfold over the next several weeks.
First, I'd like to remind you that throughout 2017, our 2020 committee met monthly. The members of this committee have given generously of their time, expertise, and commitment. Joe Speidel is the leader of this committee. I cannot tell you how many hours Joe has devoted to this effort. Joe has a deep passion for Centenary's future and is always looking for new ideas from other flourishing ministries that might inform us as we make plans for our future. Other members of the committee are: Mary E. Vetrovec, Dan Corcoran, Florence Clay Bishop, Sonia Smith, Luke Wolfe, Reid Ashe, Phyllis Stump, Jim Hill, and Earl Siddons. I am so grateful to all these persons for the time and energy they have given to this process on our behalf.
As we entered 2017, I asked our leaders to consider inviting a consultant named John Wimberly to meet with us as we moved toward the completion of a draft of a new strategic plan. One of the reasons I thought this would be helpful was that some of the matters we are working on are complex, and I felt like it would help me as your pastor to have an outside perspective as we try to position ourselves in the most effective way possible to connect with new people coming into downtown Richmond as well as how to ensure our long-term viability as a congregation. I am very grateful to Nancy Cook and the Outreach Committee she leads, as well as to the Jean Craig Fund, for allocating the resources for this assistance as we envision the nature of our local and global mission for the long haul.
John Wimberly began his work in May by having phone conversations and e-mail correspondence with some of our leaders. He studied all the work our 2020 committee had done, including the data we had analyzed about membership, ministries, and finances - and was impressed! He met with our staff while he was here with us. He noted we were well on the way toward the development of a new plan for ministry. He came and met with our 2020 Committee and Administrative Council for the good part of a day, sharing some information about the challenges mainline congregations in general face, as well as some of the unique challenges and opportunities downtown congregations face. He led us in several exercises which helped us begin thinking more intentionally about how we view our purpose as a congregation over the next several years and he helped us prioritize some of the strategies for ministry we'd already identified. John promptly presented our committee with a thorough report with some reflections and suggestions we are finding helpful. He is available to us for correspondence and continued consultation for the next 6-12 months as we need him. I am finding that there is great value in having a neutral conversation partner as we work through this process.
Over the next several weeks in these columns, I want to focus on some of the main things we are continuing to work on, as well as let you know where we are in this process and how you can be involved.
We will have a draft of a new purpose/vision statement along with an updated draft of a strategic plan at our Administrative Council meeting on August 14. At that meeting, the 2020 Committee and Administrative Council will review that work and then make plans for gatherings for Centenary members to meet and consider the plan and provide feedback and input. Hopefully sometime in late September or early October, we will have a new plan ready for formal adoption that will guide us as we move into 2018.
As a result of our 2020 Committee's hard work and the report from our consultant, I have identified four priorities I have put in the form of an acronym that we need to address as a congregation to fulfill our mission. My acronym is PEGS and looks like this:
These are the topics, along with a few others I hope to address in more depth in weeks to come. Here's briefly what I mean by these terms:
Purpose - We need a clear, unifying sense of purpose that we can easily communicate to folks beyond our church and that will guide us as we make decisions about our ministry and the use of our resources going forward.
Endowment - We need a carefully crafted policy about our endowment which states our understanding of the purpose of these funds and how and when they can be used.
Governance - We need a streamlined form of organization that enables us to pursue our purpose with passion, use our resources wisely, and that frees lay people to use their spiritual gifts in ministry and mission.
Staffing - We need a staffing philosophy and structure that deploys volunteer and paid staff in a way that helps us fulfill our purpose and that reflects our desire to be fiscally responsible.
There are some things you can do now if you feel led. We are looking for a few folks who might be interested in joining a team that would help us craft a new endowment policy. We are also looking for folks to form a team to dive deeply into models for ministry that will help us reach younger adults. We are looking for folks who would be interested in being part of a team that would explore ways to help us serve our own older adults more effectively as well as to reach out to people 55 and older who are claiming downtown Richmond as home. And we are looking for folks who would like to be part of a team to help us develop a more intentional process for making disciples. In other words, how we can we be more effective in going out into our community to connect with folks, and how we can help them, if they should come and visit us, to find faith or grow in it, and then find their place of service and ministry here at Centenary. And finally, we are forming a team that will look at ways to use our facilities more effectively so that our building can be of more use to our community and perhaps generate revenue to help us with the ongoing expenses of maintaining and operating our building.
There is a lot here to digest. I hope you will read this carefully and prayerfully. Centenary is a great church with a great tradition and, I believe, even greater future. Contact me or Joe Speidel if you'd like to talk about any of these matters. If you'd like to be part of the teams we are trying to form around the areas of ministry I mentioned above, please call or e-mail me any time. I'd love to talk to you.
And finally, a personal note. Last Sunday, in his report about Annual Conference, Doug Wilson very graciously welcomed me and my family back to Centenary. That was very kind of Doug. I want you to know that I consider it a great privilege to begin my seventh year with you and covet your prayers as we all together try to help Centenary be the best instrument it can be for the advancement of God's kingdom now and on into the future.
P.S. The sermon I'm working on is based on the Old Testament reading, Genesis 22:1-14, which is the account of Abraham's (attempted) sacrifice of Isaac. It's a tough one! The title I'm working with is "Altar Call." Hope to see you Sunday!