Thriving Congregations Initiative

Reimagining Church

New Models for the 21st Century

Reflection on the Feb 12 Gathering

Vanessa Gonzalez-Rivera

I have sat down to write this reflection since last week more times than I care to count. What should my focus be? What was that I got while I sat there not only last time, but the previous meetings? Becca and Reverend Tyler are truly doing the work of God; both are revolutionaries even though they have two very different approaches. While hearing people report about their work, I heard a lot about fears and hopes. Change while inevitable creates certain level of fear/anxiety. Churches as a concept have been dealing with the idea of reinventing themselves prior to the pandemic. So, a positive side of this pandemic is that it has forced us to switch gears and confront change. We have had to stop, refocus, pray, and adjust. While I heard many groups talk about their fears in one way or another what stayed with me was the idea of abundance and the need for deep connections.

I have had a couple of rough weeks. My grandma is dying, my dad has made some really bad choices that have affected the entire family. My wife’s family is from Ukraine. My best friend is sick so on and so forth. So, for a bit I was angry and sad. What has remained constant has been my church family. Just checking in with me, praying for us, showing me God’s love for me through them. My live has an abundance of love and deep connections. I think that is what church is, a place where we love and feel God’s love. Rev. Tyler does it through racial justice work and healing/reconciliation. Becca serves those who have been forgotten and abandon by society, we at Pj’s do it through food/clothing ministry. Now we are in the process of considering other ways we can welcome others, our new neighbors, to feel the love of Jesus and to share it.

All big changes in the world start small. I was reminded about that by Becca and Tyler and the other church groups. This week the words of Mandela have been loud in my head “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” I think we can and will reimagine, reinvent and keep growing ….why??? Because we must, because we all need to feel deep connections, and because we all need to feel God’s love in our life so we can live in the abundance we were meant to.