Last Friday, Oct. 19, Megan Castellan and I led an Acts 8 workshop at Arizona’s Diocesan Convention. Of course we had experienced transformation at the General Convention Acts 8 workshop, but I wondered whether the same experience would happen at the diocesan level. After all, the lead-up to General Convention featured lots of blogging, anxiety, and concern over the direction of the church and seemingly arcane issues like the budget. Arizona’s diocesan convention is a much tamer affair.
But, it’s clear that if Acts 8 is going to do what we hope to do and spark a true renewal movement in the church, we have to take it to the local level. So Megan and I asked Bishop Kirk Smith for permission to bring it to Arizona. He had attended our gathering at General Convention, and agreed enthusiastically. Perhaps coincidentally or perhaps not, the theme of our convention was “Realizing God’s Dream: Scripture, Spirituality, Stewardship” – a perfect tie-in to what we are doing in Acts 8.
We had 50 or 60 people at our workshop. We ordered Acts 8 buttons to pass out, which you can find at this link. (Megan motivated people to come by promising them swag!) We lined up one of Megan’s Canterbury students to video the “I Dream of a Church” segment (I imagine Megan will be posting that video soon). We had the Bible passage, Acts 8:26-40, printed out.
Other than that, the beauty of doing an Acts 8 workshop is that it requires minimal preparation. The workshop leads itself. It draws insight out of the people attending, rather than creating insights in which the attendees are to be instructed. It depends on the Holy Spirit to show up – but the Holy Spirit is pretty dependable!
If you attended the General Convention gathering, you know the basic elements. At our Arizona gathering, we added one more element, because now that we are moving down to the local level, we wanted people not just to be inspired, but also to think of concrete ways to act on that inspiration. So the final element of our gathering was, “What is one step you could take in your local parish to help make that dream a reality?”
I was amazed by the response of the people attending, but I guess that’s what happens when the Holy Spirit shows up. They were excited, energized, engaged. They had great insights about evangelism and how we need to be out there in the world chasing down the chariots, not waiting for the chariots to come to us. They had concrete suggestions for ways our churches could reach new people. Their comments afterwards were along the lines of “This was the best workshop I’ve ever been to at Diocesan Convention” and “How can we bring this to our church?” One person asked me apologetically if she might be allowed to borrow and use some of the elements in her local parish. The answer is an enthusiastic YES! Use any or all of it. It is completely designed for use in any venue anyone wants. It’s not even all that original with us, so please do use it!
Here’s how we did our gathering in our one-hour time frame. Feel free to use any or all of this, expand or contract some elements, adapt it to your local situation, add elements of your own design, etc. If you do a gathering, let us know how it went!
2:30 p.m. Convene, Welcome, Introductions
2:35 p.m. History of Acts 8 – What it is, how it started, what its mission is
2:40 p.m. Generational Perspective (this was Megan on the Millennials)
2:45 p.m. Prayer and Bible Study on Acts 8:26-40 Pray meditatively for guidance of Holy Spirit. Read passage out loud, slowly, ask group to divide into small groups of 3 or 4 and discuss, what one element stood out for you? What would you like to ask a Bible expert about? If you had Philip or the Ethiopian eunuch in the room, what question would you like to ask them?
2:50 p.m. Ask volunteers to report back to full group, leader unpacks their responses, points out interesting common themes, etc. (This is casual reporting with raised hands, not the more structured “appoint one leader from each group to come to the flip chart” type reporting.)
2:55 p.m. Pray for Holy Spirit’s guidance again. Read the same passage again, slowly. Ask group to divide again and discuss: what does this passage have to do with our church and our communities today?
3:00 p.m. Again, report back to full group (casually). Have leader unpack responses and bring themes together.
3:10 p.m. Pray again. Ask people to come forward to the microphone and share how they would complete the sentence “I Dream of a Church that ….”
3:20 p.m. Last element: Invite people to divide into small groups, ask them to discuss: “What is one step your local congregation could take to help make that dream a reality?” (We actually were running low on time and didn’t divide into small groups for this step, but just invited responses to the full group.)
3:25 p.m. Report back responses to full group. Close with prayer. Pass out Acts 8 buttons.
Let’s take it to the streets! I would love to hear about other Acts 8 workshops happening in other dioceses, parishes, and gatherings. And by the way, I am considering doing it for my parish’s annual meeting this year.