Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

The Risk of Reimagining

By Amanda Bryant

A few weeks ago, the Woodmont UCC Reimagining Church working group hosted a dinner conversation for those in the congregation interested in learning more about and engaging in the work of reimagining. We were so pleased with the deep engagement of those in attendance in this work; it is clear that the work of reimagining is happening in many ways throughout Woodmont UCC, not only within our working group. Even so, there was one question that had nagged at me as we planned this dinner, worried that someone in the congregation might ask it of us: But what if we fail? 

            I was worried the question would be asked because it is the question that has my own stomach in knots as we engage in this reimagining process. What if it doesn’t work? What if there is no consensus on a vision for this congregation? What if we can’t get enough people on board? What if… what if… what if…

            The lovely people of Woodmont UCC surprised me, though. They did not ask, “But what if we fail?” The essence of their questions was so much more enthusiastic: Why not try? Why not follow through on a new idea and see what happens? Why not trust the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us as we go? 

            I love this “why not” attitude and I am stuck on the question of “what if.” In the spirit of the fine folks of Woodmont UCC, however, I’m trying to reframe my “what if” questions. What if we take a big risk and it works out? What if God shows up in the places and the ways we have stopped expecting God to show up? What if the God who became flesh and dwelled among us remains with us even now? 

            Reimagining is risky business. The first half of our year together has been spent analyzing where Woodmont UCC is as a congregation and where it has been. That work was and is challenging and taxing. But reimagining is challenging in a different way. It requires us to reframe our “what if” questions, trusting that God is holding us each step of the way.

            In many ways, this challenge reminds me of the challenge of Advent. Advent is a paradox: We spend weeks preparing our hearts for the birth of a child who was born 2,000 years ago. In the reimagining process, we have spent weeks preparing our hearts to discern the work to come, all the while trusting that God has already gone before us, preparing the way for our work together. As we prepare to return and engage fully in the risk of reimagining, may we ask the risky question: What if God is calling us into a new and beautiful thing?

Photo | Woodmont UCC (congregational dinner, Dec. 8, 2023)