For the last few months a group of leaders in the Synod of the Northeast have been gathering together for worship, fellowship, prayer, confession-time, gripe-time and friendship. At the request of our Synod Transitional Leader, we are the steering team that is putting together the first-ever gathering in the Synod of the Northeast for Emerging Leaders—a gathering that will happen in October 2014 at the stunningly beautiful Silver Bay YMCA conference center in Lake George, New York.
I love being a part of this group. This group has held some of my tears and some of my laughter. This group has listened carefully, asked serious questions, had fun together, and shared hopes, dreams and visions for the church we love. Like most gatherings with my peers, this group has been a source of life for me, a place where I have been able to talk in ways that in other groups I might not about the practice of ministry and the joys and frustrations of being in the “younger” cohort of leaders in a denomination that doesn’t always honor the gifts of those lower in age-range that we so often say we so desperately want to have in our congregations and ministries. I’m also realizing that at 37 I’m one of the “older” ones in this “younger” group and that there’s a lot of learning and growing always for me to be engaged in as I seek to be faithful to the ministry to which I am called.
This past week I was at a Synod gathering and ran into a member of another Presbytery who is on our list of invitees, someone I’ve heard great things about, but not ever met in person. As we chatted in the parking lot after the meeting she was telling me how excited she is about this initative and our first gathering that is coming up in the fall.
“Oh don’t worry, “ I said, “Your name is on the list!”
“I’m not worried,” she said, “I already blocked the dates on my calendar, I’m coming!”
And we laughed in the parking lot together.
That is what I love. Laughter. Happiness. Joy.
Ministry is really hard these days in the church. Everyone is anxious about something and the anxiety and fear in some places is so rampant that is makes us stingy, fearful or at worst, into micro-mangers of ministry and funds for ministry. It makes me batty sometimes because the opportunities for ministry are so great. All around me I know and see so many capable, gifted, eager people who are ready to do ministry. And so often when things are just about to get off the ground or energy is just percolating, that’s when the controlling behaviors around the edges start and folks get shut down or stopped in their tracks.
I was so happy standing in the parking lot of this church a few days ago with laughter and joy between new friends who are bold enough to say, and who already get me enough to say, “Well, I’m coming to the party—whether you have me on the guest list or not!”
That’s the spirit we want—that’s the way to engaging ministry. Boldness. Fearlessness. Or as John Russell Stanger on the design team likes to say: Flawlessness.
As our group gathered, discerned, and talked our way into figuring out what our themes would be for our first gathering we settled on some of the key words asked at ordination/installation in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):
Will you seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination and love?
These are the watchwords for our first gathering and we’ve translated them into a hashtag: #W44003h to go with the citation in the Book of Order. We’ll be using the # to generate conversation leading up the first gathering this October, during the gathering and going forward. We hope that you’ll use it for conversation too! Those of us on the design team are going to be publishing blogs twice a month about our ideas leading up the gathering in October and beginning to tag others that we see as offering us help and insight.
What would you want out of a gathering of energetic, intelligent, imaginative and loving leaders in the church, forty and under?
What would your hopes and dreams be?
Where do you see energy, intelligence, imagination and love in the Church today?
And how to you cultivate it in yourself and the communities you serve with the help of the Spirit?!!?
And few other blog posts about our musing about ministry from other people on our team:
John Russell Stanger (@pluckypresby)
Linda Jimenez (@quirkychurchgrl)
And another from me, Shannan Vance-Ocampo (@svanceocampo)