Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

God Is Not Asking Us to Be Sure

By Emily Carter

Reimagining church is a weird task. As we rethink the future of our communities, we’re thinking beyond the hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly tasks that tie us down to concrete and practical planning. We’re trying to think different and to think big, imagining a world where everyone’s needs are met and all people love their neighbors as themselves. One challenge of thinking big is that we see a huge disconnect between the way things are and the way we want them to be.

When we imagine a world more in line with what Jesus had in mind for us, we see a better future that we may not know how to take real steps toward. Thinking practically and near-term sells us short of the good we’re capable of doing, while thinking hopefully and long-term leaves us uncertain about what to actually do, today, in the world we really have in front of us. Visionary leader Dr. Fennema asked us, at the end of the first gathering of all the Reimagining Church congregations, to imagine what news headlines might be reporting about our church in twenty years. I found that this exercise offered a helpful balance, in that it was near enough in time to feel real, but distant enough to think that things could be seriously different than they are today.

Since then, my working group at Trinity Episcopal Church in Seymour, Connecticut, has been thinking about the process of reimagining in terms of dreaming. We’re trying to understand our own dreams for Trinity, as well as those of the other members of the congregation. We’ve avoided getting too practical too quickly, which has allowed us to have open-ended conversations about our faith, about our community, and about what’s wrong in the world. I think these conversations have helped us form as a group and articulate a lot about what’s important to us. I feel unsure–unsure about where this process will go next, unsure about what steps to take, unsure about where things will end up, unsure if I can be doing the right thing if I don’t know where I’m going. This process is uncomfortable, but I’m wondering if it’s time to admit to ourselves that this is what we should always be doing, that we should always be a little uncomfortable and uncertain about the future. God is not asking us to be sure, but to be faithful.

Loving our neighbors doesn’t mean that we need to have all the answers, or to solve all the problems that need solving. It means doing the best we can in each moment to listen for God and to take responsibility for where we are right now. My hope is that if we can be faithful, moment after moment, we’ll discover that God has led us somewhere new. To determine exactly where we’re headed and how we’re going to get there would be to do God’s work for Him. God takes a step toward us, and we take a step toward God. We’re all moving at our own paces, as followers of Jesus and as congregations.

Image | Matt Walsh on Unsplash