Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

Working Alongside God

By Emily Carter

I have begun the exciting process of reimagining church with Trinity Episcopal Church in Seymour, Connecticut. In September, I was welcomed to the congregation for Sunday worship. During our first group gathering and in a series of workshops led by our first visionary leader, my working group has offered deep reflection on the purpose and impact of their acts in service of the broader community. It has quickly become clear to me that food is important to this congregation. They have expressed a shared passion for connecting with their neighbors–church members and community members alike–over shared meals, as well as a shared sense of urgency over addressing food insecurity in their home within the Valley. We have begun this process of imagining by thinking through what is important to the working group, what matters to the broader congregation, and what they are all already doing for God and for their community. We look forward to hearing more from the other congregations as they progress through the Reimagining Church process. Although Trinity has a particular identity and particular work it needs to do in this world, we are all sharing in God’s work together, and each part of the Body of Christ has unique insight to offer to the broader body. I’m left wondering: What might God have in store for the future of Trinity which will be truly new and which we haven’t sensed yet? How do we listen for where God wants to take us next, and then act obediently in response to that call? I know personally that when I think about the future, two modes present themselves which can be less than helpful. One is to rely on my own desires and my own strength, thinking very concretely about what I want to happen in the near future and making a plan for how to get there. In this mode, I think in terms of tasks, goals, and deadlines. The other path involves passivity on my part. I might reflect on the way I wish things were, or on different directions things might take. I’m left feeling like the future is too abstract and too out of my hands. The task before us this year involves finding a middle way - working alongside God rather than trusting in ourselves or remaining still, taking real steps in faith toward something we can’t fully picture yet. We will be seeking, I think, a sort of balance between our agency and God’s agency, between the spiritual and the practical. The hard thing about balance is that we limited and sinful people can never get balance quite right. We have to keep learning, praying, and readjusting, and our work in conversation this coming year will give us all a chance to learn from each other, pray with each other, and change up how we approach the work in front of us. We hope and trust that Jesus will be with us, as we strive to follow him and to help make his light known in this world. 

Image | Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash