Right now I am working on a lot of ministry items, maybe too many (I think, secretly, sometimes). There is one that I think is most important to our future as a congregation, but all of them have some place in my heart.
1. The Outreach Coordinator and I are planning a Young Couples' Dinner on September 30. We're an older congregation, but could find 9 young couples to invite ... and 4 of them have already RSVP'd! This is close to my heart because it all started with two of the couples. I know them pretty well, and I have been thinking for awhile, "I wish I could invite them both over for dinner. They have so much in common." We just broadened the vision.
2. First annual (I hope) Blessing of the Animals on Sunday, October 7. Pray for good weather.
3. I am leading an Adult Forum on "How to Study the Bible" on October 14th. (Boy, I almost forgot that)
4. Weddings on September 29, October 12, and November 3 (two off-site).
5. We are planning a Congregational Inreach for the month of October and into November. We have done congregational inreaches on a few other occasions. I believe they are great opportunities to deepen our relationships with one another in our congregations. A few years ago we had an inreach and trained 50 congregation members to be "visitors." They take an evening training where they learn to do a "one to one" visit, which is not an interview with a set of standard questions, but a natural conversation where the visitor really tries to listen for the most important stories the person has to share, their interests, passions and concerns. Sometimes we find out about particular struggles people are going through, but it's not a pastoral care visit. We often find out interesting things about a person's passions, interests, and history. We also find out what has drawn the person to our congregation, what they are proud of, what they wish for. I believe they are holy conversations. It is so rare that we allow ourselves to "go deep" with one another.
In preparing for the Inreach, I re-read Paul's 1st Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12. He talks about the church as a body, with individual gifts and abilities (eyes, ears, feet, hands), but also a need for interdependence. They exist, as a body does, to be in relationship with each other. They function not for their own good, but for the good of the whole body. They have each been given gifts, but they are for the "common good", Paul says. I think we have lost this notion, both in the church, and in our wider communities. Instead, we think of ourselves as a collection of individuals. It's not that I think that (especially church) people are selfish. I know a lot of people who are going the extra mile for family, or friends. But I'm not sure that most of us have the sense that we are bound to each other, as the image of the body of Christ would suggest.
These one to one conversations, I pray, will strengthen our ties to each other, and also help us to envision what the future of our congregation will be.