A while back, I shared with you an open letter to my church community…an invitation to begin learning about who we are as individuals and as a community of people. Having been immersed in this practice now for a couple months, I checked back in with people via our newsletter…and as promised, I’m using this space to keep you abreast of how things are going.
As we move forward with our learning conversations, the process of getting to know each other as a means of fostering deep connections, we begin to realize the power that exists within ourselves, and our relationships with one another. I just returned from Indianapolis, where I was blessed with the opportunity to meet people from Broadway United Methodist Church. A friend and colleague, De’Amon Harges, along with Pastor Mike Mather, began implementing this practice of deep listening, storytelling and the harvesting of gifts 9 years ago. What has emerged is simply beautiful and abundantly powerful.
Broadway United Methodist Church resides in an inner-city section of Indianapolis. A community and neighborhood written off by most, Broadway looked at people differently. De’Amon shares, “We are so used to ‘programs’ fixing us, that we fail to realize that we are all capable of anything from within! This is where the true power lies.” It is this belief in making the invisible, visible, which drives the mission of Broadway. They don’t believe they are ‘empowering’ anyone, just helping people realize the power that already exists within.
The phrase, “I am more than you see…” adorns the walls and hallways throughout the sprawling building at Broadway. It is a constant reminder that we are all more than we see on the surface, and we always need to dig a bit deeper. The people who have stepped up here at St. Marks to sit at the Connector’s Table and facilitate these learning conversations, which are actually the sharing of our stories, are operating as the yeast. When you bake bread, the yeast is the agent that enables the bread to rise. So here at St. Mark’s, these connectors are the agents that help the people of this community rise. The end result of this will be that we are all connectors, and we will all rise together in deep connection with one another.
All change begins with conversations. De’Amon says “when we share stories with people, it is important to remember that we are custodians of how we shape and facilitate the telling of the story.” What we strive to do is challenge our assumptions of people we don’t really know. Put into practice deep listening, while suspending judgment, cynicism and fear. Rather, we listen to stories and look for the inherent good in all people…the gifts that already exist!
All sustainable and significant change is built on a foundation of belonging with the other people involved in whatever we are doing. We are facilitating the space for making the invisible, visible. Once we’re finished with all of our learning conversations, the sharing of our stories, we will harvest these stories and gifts. We’ll map out the assets of this church and begin to connect them in such a way that we are the living embodiment of true connection. Then St. Marks, as a strong connected community of people, will be the yeast in our efforts to reach out to our surrounding neighborhood and rise together!