Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

Where We Are Today

Leah Wise

Throughout last semester, St. Peter's Working Group worked to build cohesion as a group, understand our role in the congregation, and pin down where the passions and gifts of the congregation lie.

We focused on the three-tiered mission represented in St. Peter’s logo, and particularly on the “eco-justice” or environmental integration component. The idea of using sheep and goats to mow our cemetery - the “goats in the graveyard” initiative - stood in both as a real goal and as a symbol of what it could mean to reimagine church in daring ways.

In our meeting with Tyler Sit, we learned how to build our muscle for flexibility and failure. We take with us the idea that it’s ok to try something even if it doesn’t have longevity. And it’s ok to let go of things that no longer have the passion or membership to support them. One example is the golf tournament: while a moneymaker for the parish, it doesn’t seem to integrate into our mission or community in the way it may have in the past.

In our meeting with Becca Stevens, we learned about the importance of getting out into the world and bringing what we do back in, through liturgical and spiritual practices.

Ideas that arose from these meetings: 1. To do a better job of integrating our pumpkin patch into the life of the church during the season. We can do a better job of telling the story, and perhaps even place a pumpkin on or near the altar table as a reminder of its role. 2. To implement a mental support animal program in local middle and high schools, while examining how to build youth programming at St. Peter’s that responds to the needs of wearied teens. 3. To immediately implement a monthly, lay-led healing service at St. Peter’s.

With these observations in mind, we developed a set of non-negotiables:
* Engaged in and with the local community
* Youth-centered and intergenerational
* Environmentally-minded
* Creates a sacred space, and a sense of wonder

What we have accomplished so far:
- We introduced the vestry and congregation to the Reimagining Church initiative.
- We introduced a “Did you know?” campaign in the e-news and on physical signs around the sanctuary that help tell the story of St. Peter’s.
- We planned and led our first healing service, a “Liturgy of the Longest Night.”
- We did research on the feasibility of having sheep and goats mow the lawn.
- We identified the active ministries of St. Peter’s.
- We asked questions about leadership structures and authority.

Our immediate goals:
- Plan focus groups and a survey structure to engage the whole congregation
- Schedule additional healing services
- Plan adult forums
- Meet with ministry leaders

Our long term goals:
- Survey the congregation
- Form focus groups
- Develop a plan of action that integrates our non-negotiables
- Engage lay members in sustainable, creative leadership

Throughout all of this planning and dreaming, we have also developed better listening skills, become more confident in our capacity to lead change, and learned how to voice disagreement in the interest of positive change and transformation.