For this week’s post, I want to share with you an open letter I wrote to my church congregation. I’d like to point out that this post is not a testimony about my particular faith, rather, it is simply an invitation to a group of people that I am in relationship with, to start to think about who we are as a community and how we can become better connected with each other. Stay tuned to this blog in the future for updates as to the progress of the project I invited people to participate in below…
“A community filled with gifts, talents and capacities is only vibrant and abundant if those gifts, talents and capacities are visible. St. Marks is a community of inherent warmth. It is a community of welcome. When my family walked through the doors 3 years ago, we remember being greeted with open hearts, open doors and open minds, just like the United Methodist Church slogan reads. We immediately felt at home and began the process of becoming members. Now, having been members for a year and a half, I’ve come to the realization that I don’t know 98% of the members of this church. I am partially at fault for this, not being involved in as many church-related activities as are available. But I don’t think our story is different from a lot of people here. I now sit on the Staff Parish Relations Committee, the Pre-Planning Committee, and most recently, the Inviting and Welcoming Committee. It is through the Inviting and Welcoming Committee that I want to spearhead a project to make this St. Marks community a more vibrant, abundant community. A community of people who have deep connections with each other, a community of people who offer their gifts and talents and a community of people who know what the gifts and talents of each other are.
The mission here is simple: to make visible that which exists already, that which is invisible. What I am learning in my work as a community builder is that it is in the invitation where the true learning happens. It doesn’t take much to get people talking. People want to share their story…it just takes an invitation to share. What I am also learning is to always remain open. Remain open to the possibility of learning new things, to connecting with new people, to sharing my story and give my time to listen to other people’s stories.
As Craig wrote in the last newsletter, St. Marks is due for a new directory. What I want to do is make this directory something bigger. There is a practice that I am currently embracing and learning as a practice called Asset Based Community Development. This is a process in which we talk with each other as neighbors, fellow citizens living in a community with each other as a means of drawing out our assets and utilizing them. When we talk with each other, when we share our stories, an understanding and connection with one another emerges in a beautiful and powerful way. More importantly, when we know what one another gifts and capacities are, we are more likely to rely on each other. We begin to truly live in a beloved community.
I believe with all my heart that this congregation is comprised of a group of people with gifts, talents and capacities. We are a group of people ready to share our gifts with each other. I believe that it exists but that it just isn’t visible. I want to make our gifts, talents and capacities visible to each other. I want to begin the process of Asset Mapping our St. Marks community. This Asset Map would then become our church directory, with all the information and pictures we are used to seeing in a typical church directory, but with an intentional effort to truly know each other and understand what we have to offer each other.
If we are going to welcome and invite people into our community, shouldn’t we be putting into practice this concept of deep connection with one another? We are great at making people feel welcome the first time they visit, but beyond that, if we are functioning as a vibrant, connected church community, isn’t that what will get people who have been welcomed, to stay? I believe wholeheartedly that we should be and we can function in this manner. So if you, the members of this community are willing to accept my invitation, we can start this process together; a process that becomes a learning journey, one in which we learn just how beloved this congregation already is…”