Discerning Options

1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
— Genesis 12:1-4 (NRSV)

Beloved Church!

We’ve come a long way, and we have a long way to go.

Like Abraham and Sarah, we believe that God is inviting us to a different country: to leave our old ways of doing things, and to journey to a new way of being Church, a way that we do not yet know.

Our task over these months is to discern together God’s will. We’ve covenanted together to pray, asking God the discernment question (and even choosing the question was a matter of prayerful discernment):
“God, in what form should we continue as Trinity United Methodist Church?”

We’ve grounded the work in a principle that we are confident will retain the most important thing:
“Whatever form we take as a church, we will follow Christ and invite others to follow him, grow in Christ, and embody Christ for the world.”

We’ve covenanted together to ask,
“God, show me my preferences and stumbling blocks, and give me the grace to shed my own preferences, and to desire only your will.”

We’ve reflected together on what it is to listen to another, and to be listened to.

And we’ve considered how, we find ourselves walking alongside the Scriptural story in this moment of Trinity’s history. We found ourselves grasped and moved especially by the saga of Abraham and Sarah, in their old age leaving the life they had known, to follow God’s leading to a land they could not imagine.

(By the way: I invite you to enter the various parts of the Abraham-and-Sarah story, Genesis 12 to 25, in your own spiritual disciplines of meditating on the scriptures. The tradition I love, Lectio Divina (“divine reading”) has been part of the prayer life of Christians since … well, almost since there was a Christian Bible at all! You can find a useful article with a some basic help in the practice of Lectio Divina, at Bible Gateway. )

Exploring Options

Last Sunday, the body moved into some of the initial conversation about what form our life together as Trinity United Methodist Church might take, if we follow God’s guidance. What options do we think God is offering us?

The list that the body brought forth is very nuts-and-bolts, and mainly related to what shape the church’s pastoral leadership might take:

  • Part-time pastor
  • Sharing pastor with another church
  • Lay-led congregation
  • Retired pastor
  • Merger with another congregation
  • Certified Lay Minister

… and when it was noticed that nobody had even mentioned the idea of the church being served by a full-time pastor, we put that up too!

  • Full-time pastor.

Now, these aren’t all the ways that churches are organized. But these labels go with various ways we sense or hope God may be calling us to go.

We gave a short time for prayer, asking that we might be set free of our own preferences, and open to God’s leading. Then we asked, of all these options, which four do we feel God’s leading?

We crowdsourced the question with colored dots; people could choose up to four items. (Kathy and I didn’t stick any up there.) Here are the four options that received the most attention:

  • Part-time pastor
  • Sharing pastor with another church
  • Retired pastor
  • Full-time pastor

Our covenant between now and our next session (August 11?) is to continue to pray as we have been praying the discernment question and the prayer to shed our own preferences; and also to meditate on our scriptural roots in the journey of Abraham and Sarah, and to ask God’s guidance with respect to the four pastoral options we named above.  

I hope to write more soon on prayer and discernment, and also on where we’ll be going from here, to perfect and clarify the options, and to consider the particular gifts and challenges (which can also be gifts!) that need to be considered as we journey together.

One thing we know: we have enough time. We don’t need to be anxious or impatient, even as we press on. Abraham and Sarah’s story may instruct us, as it instructed the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews:

Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise. — Hebrews 6:15 (NRSV)

I trust that we too, with persistence and patience, will find ourselves united as a body in a course that we trust is indeed the will of God for this congregation, at this moment in our sacred story.

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