St. Michael's Episcopal Church

Serving with faith, love and joy

Living Local ~ Joining God

On May 21st, I attended a Diocesan workshop called Living Local: Joining God. It was held at Christ Church in Gardiner. I wanted to share some of what I learned at this workshop as I feel it is very relevant with where we are as Christians and we as a parish.

We were asked to put our parish in one of four types. The brackets represent the icons that were these types:

  1. Reactive – [Hunkering down in our castle] Membership is decreasing, neighborhood has changed, many historical buildings in the area, parish needs money to maintain their building, spending down the principle of investments.
  2. Developmental – [Polishing the apple] We want to make ourselves more attractive, we renovate, change the carpet… We design programs to attract families with kids and/or adults. We make changes to our service.
  3. Transitional – [Plane that converts to a car] Make attempts to attract people. Imaginative, reconnect, re-neighbor, ask people how they are thinking.
  4. Transformational – [Dalmatian with Dalmatian kittens, not pups] Complete changes that are a 180 degree about face of where we are today.

Which category would you put us in?  Before I give my answer, think about your answer to the categories. My answer is below.

One of my takeaways was in the questions we ask ourselves. Our default questions have always been:

  1. How do we grow our church?
  2. How do we get people into church?
  3. How do we meet the needs of help?

We need to learn to ask the God questions:

  1. What might the spirit of God be up to out ahead of us in our neighborhoods?
  2. How do we participate more fully in what God might be doing in our neighborhoods and communities?

We went out in groups of 4 and walked the neighborhoods of Gardiner recording our observations. Our guiding Gospel was Luke 10:1-12 .

Luke 10 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

My choice- So, while I felt we landed in multiple types, I chose the second based on the fact that we are still trying to attract people to our church instead of going out in our communities to get to people. I feel we are getting out, but not as a mission, more as outreach. We are too concerned about maintaining our church building as a means of survival to get out and help the Nones and Dones[1] find their faith.

Doing so (getting out) requires more discernment than planning. It is a step into the unknown and needs for us to be brave and bold and just get out and find out. Easier said than done.

Paul Beaudette

[1] Nones and Dones refers to people who have no religious affiliations, the Nones, and those that used to affiliate but no longer do, the Dones.

St. Michael's Episcopal Church - Auburn, Maine | A member of The Episcopal Diocese of Maine, The Episcopal Church, and the Worldwide Anglican Communion