At our Lenten Series on Wednesday April 6, Anna Eng led us through a study of Paul's first letter to Corinth, and then had us split up into three small groups with the assignment to write a letter to our church from Paul's perspective. Here's what our groups came up with:
Dear Church of the Incarnation,
I praise you for caring for one another when one is hurting or burdened, being open about decisions made, being open and welcoming, being a safe home, providing a beautiful space, having a strong desire to reach out to the needy in the community, and for being faithful in worship and prayer.
However, it has come to my attention that there is fear amongst some that if you serve the needs of people outside of the church that you might get embroiled in controversy, and a fear that this controversy will destroy the church. There is a fear of leaving the boundaries of the church, fear of the church becoming divided, and people are operating based on fear not faith. Also some fear that reaching out will make this an unsafe place to come to. People are resisting change because they are satisfied with the church as it is, and they expect outsiders to conform to the church's way of being. While being open, your diversity could be better, and pledging could be better.
I hear that some people are cutting back on pledging based on rumors without making an effort to verify whether true. [Editor's note: this, also, may be more rumor than fact.]
I challenge you to give to the church in a way that is not based on partiality or personal taste. Ask yourself, "What is the Spirit trying to do with this Church?" This should be the primary question instead of asking what ideas can we come up with ourselves or what works now. So therefore think about how you can serve the church.
What is the Spirit asking the Church of the Incarnation to do in the community and how can you, as an individual, be part of that?
You need to be honest with yourself whether you are not being authentic to the call of the Spirit, whether you are impeding change.
Set aside your judgment. You need to not be afraid to challenge one another; open up the lines of communication. Be proactive in your communication with one another; if you know people are unhappy, speak to them. And if you are unhappy you must take responsibility and go speak to the people you are unhappy with. Do not be afraid to take that first step to communicate with one another. Step out in faith and away from fear.
Blessings to you and to God be the Glory!
Dear Church of the Incarnation:
I praise you for your wish for diversity, your hospitality, variety of liturgy, concern for the poor (Living Room and Open Table), small groups, and for encouraging differing beliefs and lifestyles.
However, you could be more diverse, especially in terms of the age of your congregation. You have too few younger people. And there seems to be division among the three services: each group is entrenched in their own liturgical style. In addition, you are trying to do too many things with too few resources.
Therefore, I want you to try alternative marketing strategies and innovative liturgy, without losing the essence of what the church stands for. And I encourage you to understand one another and mix it up.
Dear Church of the Incarnation:
This is good: people are feeling welcomed with great vegan foods here. Reaching out to the women at the Living Room and the Open Table is a blessing. St. Andrew's keeps going, thanks to you! The choirs, and Numina, and small groups continue the ministry. Praise God for Father Matt.
However, it's been brought to my attention that people are not greeting with eye contact at the Peace. Others get the Farlander Blues: when they are new, no one talks to them. The number of young people and small children is low here. Where are they? What are we doing to make them feel unwelcome? The 8:00, 9:15, and 11:15 services don't have so many opportunities to meet each other - separate groups.
Therefore you should try to have a 5:00 pm service on Saturday evening or 9:00 pm Sunday - even though this has been tried, I encourage you to alter this and try again. Perhaps, more people would be available to meet up with the new ones in Farlander Hall? More vestry members or volunteers? A greeting at the door is good - but too short.