Early in his book Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory, Tod Bolsinger imagines a scene from the Lewis and Clark explorations of the early nineteenth century when, expecting the Pacific Ocean, the explorers discovered the Rocky Mountains.
You may remember that expedition from history class. Merriweather Lewis and William Clark were charged by Thomas Jefferson to explore the new Louisiana Purchase, and find a good route through the Western half of the continent all the way to the Pacific Ocean. They took boats up to the source of the Missouri River, hoping the river led to the sea. It didn’t. Instead the explorers were disappointed to find an impassable expanse of mountains before them. Their boats would not help them find their way.
Bolsinger uses the experience of Lewis and Clark as a metaphor for the experience of churches today. We have been paddling in the same boats for a long time, but it seems like now we have come to the mountains, and the things that once worked for us no longer do. How can we move forward as a church? How do we confront the new challenges in front of us?
Our church is no stranger to change, looking radically different than it did six years ago. We know the kind of effort and hardship it takes to confront challenge and change. But we know the hope, excitement, and faith that always finds a way thanks to the grace of God.
For the past year or so, the session has been thinking about the ways our church has been changing. We explored data on member involvement, and were pleased to find that two thirds of our church are involved in the ministry of our congregation beyond attendance at worship on Sunday. We conducted stewardship with an eye towards promoting new opportunities for ministry and connection. At our retreat in January, our session explored the different ways our church has changed through transition. Why does involvement look different than it did five years ago? How can we expect that to change? What’s next for our church?
Concurrent with these questions, Cherokee Presbytery has engaged PneuMatrix consultants to help congregations explore scenarios just like these. The session has determined that this confluence of events would allow us to benefit in participating in this process. What does this look like for our church?
In the coming weeks, our nominating committee will reconvene for the purpose of gathering a team of 5-6 members who, along with me, will work with our consultants. This team will meet with the consultant and a trained facilitator ten times over the course of one year. The team will explore change that is happening in our church and look for positive ways to engage it. They will then present the results of this work to session and the congregation for the purpose of clarifying opportunities for us to grow as a congregation, which the session will then consider in its discernment for the church.
How can you get involved?
-Consider being a part of the vision team;
-Submit a name of someone in our church to the nominating committee (Sally Burran, Bob Hubbs, Bobbie Anderson, and Will Scott) who you think would be a great team member. You can submit names to these people individually, or to the church office;
-Ask questions, think about the church, and talk to members of the vision team;
-Pray for the work of the team.
Thank you for your prayers, your dedication, and the way you have responded to the call of God by joining in the church’s ministry. I look forward to continuing the adventure with you through this process and beyond.
Grace and Peace,