Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

Operating Through the Holy Spirit

By Lee Febos

On my way to the first meeting with our Reimagining cohort for the newly named Grace and St. John’s (as of September 18), I was buzzing with excitement. There were so many ways this meeting could go and so many exciting possibilities in the air.

An hour before the meeting, I went to the store and bought treats from a corner store for the group. With the treasures of apple cider, figs and rugelach, I grounded myself in routines of hospitality and fellowship flowing from a table of abundance. Even my favorite musical artists had put out a new album for the warm autumn day.

On my way to the East Rock Park, where we were going to meet, there was a spring in my step. I held my goodies in a tote bag along with some drinking glasses from home.

Who would we be as a group? What new things could we discover about each other? How should I frame the discussion? How would I be able to manage my authority as a facilitator for this group who will meet for 8 months?

With all these questions running through my mind, I forgot that my physical body was doing a few balancing acts, and I tripped over myself.

My phone flew out of my hand, stopping the music as my headphones unplugged. The bag I was using to carry my glassware tumbled to my side with a cartoonish shattering sound. 

As I gathered myself, I assessed the damage. Each drinking glass was destroyed beyond recognition, and my phone had spiderwebs of cracks in the screen. 

Metaphors abound here: The fractured nature of individuals searching for new relationships with God; the fissures of the relationship between the church and the world.

But in the moment, I had a scraped knee, a damaged phone and no way to serve the apple cider.

So I waited for my group to arrive and tried to hide the wound on my leg, dumping the shattered glass in a trash can and quickly ordering a new phone. As the first members arrived, we talked about the pleasant day and the history of the area of Orange Street.

Beyond all of my inner chaos, there was a chemistry developing among us, operating through the Holy Spirit. But the fleshy reality of my needs meant I had to take on the helpless role of a young professional with a scraped knee. Once again, I was the little, precocious kid in church, prone to scraped knees and stepping out of my depths.

Despite these anxieties, the conversation we had at that first meeting reminded me of the hope I have for the church. My group from Grace and St. John’s is brilliant and friendly. They’ve participated in similar work over the past 15 years. In that time, the church has begun many programs: Feeding neighbors with Dinner for a Dollar, participating in Swords to Ploughshares, expanding ecumenical relationships within the Hamden community. They have done incredible work.

Within this group, there is history and energy, and there is the very present reality of the merger and renaming which has taken place over the past two weeks. Who the parish will be as the merger takes root and forms this new parish will be on ongoing conversation that I feel called to join and lead in my capacity as a facilitator. If only I could learn to focus on what’s going on and not trip over myself.

Image | Sigmund on Unsplash