Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

Risk Falling Short

By Emily Carter

At Trinity, we have been talking over the past four months about how our congregation presents itself to the public, welcomes newcomers, and links people within the parish to the different ministries and community events taking place. Our working group is now in a state of transition, as we look toward the end of the academic year and toward a process of developing and implementing tangible projects. In contrast to the open-ended and wide-ranging conversations at the start of our time together—such as when Dr. Sharon Fennema asked us to imagine what our congregations might look like in 20 years—today we are starting to plan our actions over the coming weeks and months, moving toward some goals we have selected. From the beginning, we have acknowledged the complexity of reimagining church. This process asks us to explore tension between the way we want the world to be and the real steps we can take within this world, and between a transformed future and a tomorrow that will look a lot like today does. As I have reflected on guiding our working group over the past month, I have noticed some resistance in myself as I imagine beginning a concrete project. Are we betraying the hopeful and idealistic spirit of imagining a better future by making plans that risk falling short of our vision? I have concluded that, no: as Christians we are always asked to keep our eyes set on the Kingdom of God even as we navigate a fallen world. When we stay in the realm of ideas and of talk, we might be able to keep our hands from getting dirty, but we also fall short of being the hands and feet of Christ in this world. At the same time, we have to keep from getting bogged down in details and dailyness, losing sight of Christ’s offer to transform us now and in the future. We need to keep one foot in the reflective and one in the pragmatic, one in the idealistic and one in the realistic, at all times. Church committee meetings need prayer, worship, and reflection. Prayer, work, and reflection need to generate action and to cause real changes in the ways we move through the world. I think sometimes it can feel risky and vulnerable to put our values into practice. We can disappoint ourselves and others when things do not turn out the way we hoped they might. But that inertia, in the end, serves to protect our ego. It also sells us short of what we are capable of accomplishing—and we are capable of that only through the saving help of Christ, not through out own power. Fortunately, the Trinity working group is eager to act, to turn our time together into fruit that will benefit the community. We are trusting God to be with us and to act with us in all that we do moving forward, as we do it with the hope of glorifying Him.

Image | Xin on Unsplash