A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of spending a weekend with the Alliance of Baptists in Atlanta, Georgia. There were over 400 progressive Baptists who came together to work, worship, connect and support one another. It is always refreshing to join the Alliance; I find myself among like-minded people working out similar callings to embrace God’s larger vision for the church. In addition to my own personal rejuvenation, I want to share three themes from the Gathering that I hope will continue to impact our ministries.
Learning to Listen –The theme of our gathering was “We’ve a Story to Hear from the Nations,” and our time together began with a two-hour workshop on the skills of listening. Listening, we were reminded, is an act of mutual transformation. It involves coming to critical awareness of reality as it is. Learning to listen to one another is difficult because it topples the invisible but very familiar structures that separate people and prevent us from really communicating. It requires both listeners and speakers to shift perspectives and power dynamics that are ingrained in us. Learning to listen is messy and painful, but essential to truly deepen relationships with others.
Full Faith Formation – The Alliance of Baptists has on its staff a Faith Formation Specialist. I must admit it does my heart good, as your Minister of Christian Formation, to meet folks who have walked my path before me and can impart their wisdom as I find my way. The goal of Faith Formation is a “transformative and informative knowing of the Sacred Story that finds root in our story.” In other words, how are we learning from the sacred stories of our faith, and being shaped by them, in such a way that our individual and communal stories are deeply affected? Christian Formation ought to continually link back to this key question in ways that are creative, intentional and flexible.
Revitalization of Worship – Worship is the central act of our congregation. We exist to worship God, and our identity and actions flow from this. Worship is a profound ritual, a sacred act, and as such, needs to be approached with care. And yet, for worship to be vibrant and meaningful, we need to continually revisit ways in which our worship can more meaningfully allow us to encounter God. It is refreshing to talk with pastors about what works in their context, hear stories of meaningful worship experiences, and think creatively what worship is – and can become – at Lakeshore. I carry with me insights from each of these themes, and I look forward to the ways we will continue exploring them together.