Welcome to the Regional Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Illinois and Wisconsin. CCIW member congregations have been joining together in Assemblies for nearly 165 years. You and I, we are just the latest edition in a long story of faithfulness, as our congregations and leaders have sought to fulfill our calling to be Together Making Disciples of Christ.
No generation escapes the essential task of answering the question: “What are we called to do and be in this time and place?” Sometimes we wish we could ignore the question. We would rather just keep doing what we have always done. The work of faithfulness, however, requires more from us than this is what we’ve always done. Our context cries out to us for more deep spiritual reflection; real engagement with each other and our neighbors; for creative innovative responses; from a much broader worldview. To think not just about us, but about Planting for the Future, while Playing with a Purpose.
I read a wonderful book by Heifetz on leadership. In it he said that leadership, these days has to be about being adaptive, which means, leadership is about helping our people manage losses. Good leaders don’t have to have all the answers. They must, instead, be prepared to engage in the conversation, hold open the possibilities, and help their organizations manage the losses that are occurring. Things are not as they once were. Ways we used to do things will not work in our new context. Old ways are ending. Good leaders help us face the truth of letting go, by holding out the very real hope of what will arise. It is prophetic work.
Having been through a few losses myself, I understand that this is not just theoretical. I understand that grief is real and powerful, and if not attended to can leave us feeling empty and without hope. I also know that accepting loss is crappy—a word from my mother. And, that denial and holding on to what was, feels like a way to protect ourselves from loss. I understand.
I also know, like you do, that the longer we hold on to what was, the more painful it becomes. We hold on for many reasons. Sometimes, we hold on because we are afraid of the grief. Sometimes, we fear that if we let go, it means we are unfaithful. Sometimes, we fear it might mean that our lives were meaningless. Sometimes, we are afraid —the way we have known our lives—will be over.
Well, there is some truth in that; life as we had known it will not be the same. That does not mean that our life is over or that it was meaningless. Our faith story is very clear—new life/resurrection power is waiting in the wings. We can plant for the future, and play with a purpose—because God will bring new life.
Has anybody seen the movie, “We Bought a Zoo?” Great movie, I highly recommend it. (Widower with two children buys a zoo. Crazy.) There is a line in the movie that says, “it only takes 20 seconds of courage to change your life forever.” Only 20 seconds to reach out, meet someone, try something, engage someone, let go, and step out the grief. Just 20 seconds to start a new life; to find your wings and fly. It’s doable—we all have the capacity for 20 seconds of courage.
There is a fb post that floats around from time to time that says that regions (middle judicatories) can do nothing; specifically that regional leadership can do nothing, to change our congregation’s situations. It is up to congregations and their leaders to get creative and innovative.
What I learned a long time ago, while raising children and pastoring congregations is that the very best any leader can do is create an atmosphere; that encourages deep connection with God and one another; the helps develop trust and faith; that fosters creativity and innovation; so that transformation of God’s making can take place. And, when necessary to muster up 20 seconds of courage and say “let’s go.” That’s not nothing.
So, here are some places and ways we have been managing losses with the hope of new life; fostering an atmosphere that is sacred; and finding 20 seconds of courage to plant for the future, and play with a purpose:
CWS: very excited about our new hire, Laura Williams. Laura and her husband Robert bring a sense of calling to ministry. Laura was a Peace Corp volunteer in Senegal. She knows how to work in multicultural settings with very few amenities. She is currently fulfilling her Americorp position with the Boys and Girls Clubs. Robert is a Disciple from our Lexington congregation. Lower number of campers. Work Day on November 8.
PRAR initiative: Grants to further the conversation and engage our communities. Re-Routing event, Saturday, Dec. 6 at Decatur Central. XPLOR—partnership with the NBA, UMW, FCC Moline and FCC/Cedar Memorial in Davenport, Iowa. Young Adult Leader development/discernment process. 9 months living together in an intentional community learning about service. Rev. Bonnie Osei-Frimpong is here to talk about this initiative. You can go to her workshop tomorrow.
2 years ago I told you we were considering becoming a Virtual Office—how far we have already come. Treasury Services—balanced budget in 2013. DMF giving was up. Annual Report highlights. Christal, Scott, Terri, Peggy, Jeff—all deployed. Task Group: Winston Simmons, Geoff Mitchell, Mick Kuehl, Terry Foland, Dina Emser. It’s about making more connections, not less.
Website—Good News stories. Little thing called a Search button.
Women, Youth. Spring Events, Writing Retreat, Youth Summit.
New Church—helping to lead worship tonight; HOPE Partnership.
Legacy congregations: Harristown Christian Church: contributions to Central Illinois Food Bank, Dove, Eureka College, CCIW, General Church. FCC Gurnee: they are giving their property and assets to CCIW in order to promote a Disciple presence in the North Suburbs of Chicago—with no strings attached.
New Day—congregational transformation. 10 more congregations to participate in the coming two years. 20 seconds of courage, safe community.
Summation: This is what matters to me.