Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

The Guidance of the Spirit

By Caroline Blosser

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” - Galatians 5:25

As one group member asked at our first meeting together, “Where are we going with all this?”

Christian scriptures, and histories of various Christian communities, together show us: we are in very good company when we experience the unknowingness of what’s next. Where are we going? How we will get there? Will we even make it? Are we ok? Are we going to be ok? What do we do next

Our mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers have been asking these questions, of God and of one another, across time and place.

So, “Where are we going with all this?” For now, the Spirit only knows. 

Indeed, this work of Reimagining Church, strikes me a profoundly, deeply Spirit-led work. While we might feel stuck, or lost, or adrift, or out of our depth—the Spirit goes before us, has gone before us, and is beside us now. The Spirit is already moving

As we find ourselves moving into the unknown, more and more – both the unknowns of the future that are already unfolding and are yet to unfold, and the unknowns of our past and present, that will clarify and come into greater focus through the Spirit-filled light of revelation and truth – we will find ourselves learning to listen together to what the Spirit is saying to us, here and now, in our particular community of First Baptist Church in Branford, Connecticut, as we make this journey together, step by unknown step.  And as we listen to what the Spirit is saying, we will discern together how we might respond.

In our second meeting together, I invited the group into an exercise (learned from a preaching course with YDS Homiletics Professor, Dr. Donyelle McCray) called “This Is Not A Cup.”  An object is passed around the gathering of folks, in a circle. Each person, holding the object, declares what it is. The only rule, you cannot saw literally what the object is. We started with a paper cup. Instead of explicitly explaining the task, I demonstrated it, saying “This is not a cup. This is a little hat” (and put the cup upside on head. Then I passed it to the next person, looking a little bewildered, though also eager to play. Each person would hold the cup, and announce something imaginative. “This is not a cup … this is a telescope!” (while holding it up to their eyes). “This is not a cup … this is a water catcher!” (we all pause to imagine the rain). “This is not a cup, this is a toilet!” (we all laugh, with this parent of several young children).   After the first round, another object is passed around the circle, and folks have more opportunity to engage their own skills of interpretation and creativity. 

When the game was done (and not a moment too soon for some of us), group members were invited to share what they experienced feeling during the exercise. Someone shared they felt anxious, and another agreed, “I felt pressure to come up with someone creative.” A few people expressed feeling uncertainty and awkwardness.  “And humor!,” somebody adds quickly, “we were all laughing!” I invited the group to then make connections to the process of Reimagining Church. It will likely include of all these emotions – feeling pressure to come up with something creative, feeling unsure what to do or what is being asked in this process, having some fun and laughter together, feeling the anxiety of not knowing where we are going. 

Instead of passing a cup around the circle, we’ll be passing the following question around our circle together: “What is Church?” How have folks experienced church? Who is this particular church and community? Where have we been, where are we now? What graces have folks experienced in this community? What wounds? What conflicts? What growth? 

Spirit-led work is creative work. It involves the joining of our own dreaming to God’s dreaming for us and for God’s world. All is invited to be brought to the table, a little more fully, in service of this work—not only the joys and graces we have experienced, but also the pains, and the hurts, and the wounds in need of acknowledgement and healing. We will be engaging our own stories, as we engage the collective stories of the congregation, bringing a little more of each of ourselves to one another, as we listen together for where the Spirit is guiding us.