“If the vision seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay”
—Habakkuk 2:3b NRSV
Last night I was at a Swamp Bats game when, rather unexpectedly several troops of geese lifted in flight and, leaning into their common endeavor, angled over the diamond, gaining altitude as they flew away. Though the Canadas were probably only going from one grazing spot to another, or over to the watering holes and river banks on the other side of the ballfield, I don’t think that I was alone in seeing it as a sign that the end—of Summer—was near. There was a collective reaction to the slow assent of the low-flying birds, from spectators and ballplayers alike; not quite a gasp, but an acknowledgement, a tip of the cap to the advance of time despite our desire to sync it with our own plans and timetables. The stadium announcer paused in his duties, the catcher made as if he had a shotgun to hunt them down with while the ump checked his watch to make sure it wasn’t yet hunting season.
I have been encouraged by all the outstanding and timely work that so many of our members and friends have been doing to keep ahead of maintenance issues, prepare the Education Wing for its new tenants, ready contracts, weed garden spaces, reserve rooms to interview musicians. Thanks to all of you who have helped and found ways to get involved.
I have also been fired up by dedication of the staff, the various committees, task teams and your Board of Trustees, that have already been meeting, making plans and dreaming dreams. The Board has formally met three times in July—as the Executive Council, in their regular Board meeting and once again last Saturday on a full day retreat facilitated by Regional Staff member Joe Sullivan. Bravo to those groups who see that there is much day-to-day work to be done and a bigger picture to be painted. Even in a season when sunshine and family time, gardening and swimming and cookouts hold sway, there is always need, and perhaps a little more elbow room, to consider our congregational life and the impact of our mission in the many communities we are invested in beyond 69 Washington St.
I think that sabbatical will be remembered as a very important juncture in the life of our shared ministry. It provided us with intentional and structured time to think about where we have been, and what we have done, in the six years we have been together. We have had time to consider our actions on behalf of others, our responses to troubles in our world; we have been able to measure our impact in the region; we have remembered the cycles of worship, the joyful memories and the losses and sad times we have shared; we have thought deeply about the tasks to be done and the roles people play; and through lens of sabbatical thinking strengthened our grasp of the principles, values and loving ways that form the covenant that binds us together. This is important work.
I believe that the vision we seek is already building, by virtue of the values we identified in 2017 and the mission we created together and approved at Annual Meeting 2018. I would even say that the vision is already in motion, emerging in the many ways we gather to consider how each of us, and all of us, represent our principles, embody our values and demonstrates how our mission makes a positive and sustained change in homes, neighborhoods and world.
In the six weeks left between now and in gathering—which really is a lot of time if well spent—I ask you to do three things:
- Take a look at our new mission and ask yourself what you are already doing to live it. A good mission represents who we are as well as where we wish to be, so it shouldn’t be surprising that you have been already working to strengthen community, to be compassionate with yourself and others and to commit to living in a way that heals rather than harms the world. Own this work, note your findings and share what you have discovered with me and your Board of Trustees.
- Think about what our stated values and the other words within the Mission Statement (such as “creating”, “working” and “fair”) mean to you and envision ways that you think would bring our church closer to a shared vision combining our mission, ministry and activities. What ways do you see the mission being apparent in all our expressions of church life: justice, service, fellowship, generous giving and resourcing the mission? What skills do you have to help us share in the responsibilities, preserve the building and grounds, connect with other churches and support our denominational goals and growth? Own this work, note your findings and share what you have discovered with me and your Board of Trustees.
- Make sure your committee or task team is discussing their role in living the mission and creating a vision from that mission. It is easy for us to think about living by a mission and staking out a shared vision—or avoiding such work—alone, or in the times between meetings asking for “congregational input.” As some in our congregation have noted we are not there yet, we have a mission but no clear vision(s) of what living the mission would look like. We have a number of people working hard and others who aren’t sure how to get involved. We have individuals with splendid ideas and no place to bring them. Be certain, we have work to do to anchor this mission, and it begins not only with individual input but collective expressions of “what if.” Consider ways that your committee can center your work on the spiritual principles and mission of the church. Put the mission statement on your agendas, take time for worshipful moments in your meetings, discuss together how your committee or crew can integrate the mission into its work and see how that changes your priorities and progress. Own this work, note your findings and share what you have discovered with me and your Board of Trustees.
I look forward to seeing our vision emerge. Through our patient and yet steady application of the work we have already done, I believe that we will begin to see how the mission lives in us and the how the vision already begins to write itself.
Yours in Faith, Hope and Love,