Category Archives: Reflections

Knit Theology

This has been making the rounds a bit, but I figured I would post it here too, in the hopes that it would spark a discussion.

Because my current ministry lacks a building, the local Episcopal church has generously allowed me to use a desk in a corner of their office bullpen. I keep their deacon/office administrator company while I tend to my various college-ministry-office tasks, and she holds down the fort. It’s a good arrangement.

Last week, a young boy, “Zach”,* stopped by on his weekly rounds to pick up our recycling. He is around 10 years old, and comes by every week to pick up our glass for us, for pocket money. He doesn’t go to church, but our deacon has been working on him long and hard about this matter for over a year now.

This week, he stopped in the office with his mom, because he came to the conclusion that his father would greatly appreciate a hand-knitted washcloth for Christmas, and he was just the person to provide him with one. Accordingly, he stopped in to procure knitting instructions from our deacon, “Beth”.

Beth whipped out the needles and yarn, and got right to it. I scooted over on my chair to observe, since I am great at knitting, but bad at teaching it. Within 15 minutes, Zach had a serviceable beginning to a washcloth, and was fixated on the second row, like it held the secret to Mideast peace. “Now, Zach,” said Beth, “you really should come to our youth group here next week. I think you’d like it.”
Zach was undissuaded from the knitting. “Why would I want to do that?” he replied calmly. “I’m not a Christian” He announced this in a matter-of-fact, descriptive tone, like he had told us that he did not care for broccoli, or that magenta clashed with orange. Facts were facts, ma’am. Neither good, nor bad.
I found this fascinating. “Huh. So, what do you think makes a person a Christian, Zach?”
With this, he dropped the knitting, swiveled in his chair, and stared at me, jaw dropped. “Well, I don’t know. Lots of things! But I’m not one.”
After some more gentle pressing, he started to list things he did not believe in: God was not stuck in the sky on a throne. God was not an old white man with a beard. God did not control us all like puppets.
He was surprised when Beth and I agreed with him on these points, but not slowed down. Once he got going, he was on a roll–a 30 minute roll. Why, if Jesus died on a cross, did we now all wear crosses around our necks as the sign of Jesus? Why, if God gave us free will, did God insist that we worship him, and “not just let us sit on a beach in Miami all the time?” (That made me laugh out loud.)
To the last, I admitted that it remained a deep mystery, but for me, personally, I worshipped God because I actually like God. Chances are, if I didn’t love God so much, I would ignore God a lot more. But, moreover, I show God my affection by trying to live the way Jesus lived, and by trying to love the people around me as much as God did. Zach pondered this concept for a while, knitting industriously.
“Well,” he finally said, “I’ll probably come to the youth group thing. So long as I can ask more questions.”
We assured him that would be fine. In fact, I told him that would be awesome, since his questions were among the best I had heard. I meant it.
I don’t know what would happen, if we all took to the streets, sat on corners, and offered to teach whatever it was that we knew best to passers-by: be it knitting, cooking, basketball, singing, or hopscotch. I don’t know what would happened if we went, offered what we had, and then listened to what people had to say about God.
But I have a feeling it would be amazing.
*I’ve changed the names, just on the off chance that other people don’t enjoy being featured on the internet as much as I do.
Originally posted at “Red Shoes, Funny Shirt”

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Betty White, the Episcopal Church, and Why You Belong on a Restructuring Task Force … by Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale

The Golden Girls went off the air in 1992. After that, Betty White appeared in occasional TV and movie roles and did some Vaseline-lensed ads for animal-related causes. In a sign that she was riding off into the pop-cultural sunset, she received a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood and racked up lifetime achievement honors at the American Comedy Awards, TV Land Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. She was also named a Disney Legend, whatever that is.

If you didn’t follow Betty White’s career that closely, it could be hard to know whether to refer to her in the past or present tense. One saw Betty White around more often than Sasquatch, but not much more. For some reason I have a vivid memory of her as a foul-mouthed widow in 1999’s Lake Placid, an otherwise unmemorable movie about giant man-eating crocodiles.

The situation of the Episcopal Church today resembles what seemed to be the twilight of Betty White’s career. We’ve got gorgeous buildings that make excellent settings for awkward encounters in Six Feet Under or official mourning for Gerald Ford. We have a beautiful prayer book that makes a cameo appearance in Rachel Held Evans’ excellent new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and polite notice for its cultural significance in The Atlantic. But we’re pretty short on actual influence in the national conversation these days.

The last 10 years have been particularly bruising. Our average Sunday attendance has fallen by about 20% through the strains of schism and death’s inevitable toll on an institution whose average member is 62 years old. The popular metaphor among hopeful observers and participants is that we have been pruned for future growth. Fair enough.

Our church’s numbers have been declining for decades, but the fact that many parts of the church are supported by endowments from generous members past have meant that until the last decade’s economic and market disasters, our institutional structures could get by without adapting all that much. Maybe pruning is the right metaphor for this experience, but it feels a lot more like we’ve been knocked down. But we don’t have to be down for the count.

The renaissance of Betty White’s career began in early 2010 with a famous Super Bowl commercial for Snickers, depicting her getting knocked into the mud while playing football. The commercial inspired a social media campaign that soon had her hosting Saturday Night Live. Today Betty White is everywhere.

White’s return to the cultural mainstream isn’t just because of the commercial, though it was clearly a turning point. White is back because we have rediscovered that she has something to offer us: a sharp wit, openness, honesty about ugly truths (especially about aging), iconoclasm, and compassion. But her new career doesn’t resemble her old career much. There’s been no return to sweet-natured Rose Nylund, but an adventurous engagement with where pop culture is now.

The Episcopal Church also will not be the church we used to be. We were the church of the Roosevelts and the Vanderbilts, but we’re about as likely to go back to that as Betty White is to have a reunion special with Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan. We will be the church God calls us to be, or we will wither away, cutting budgets and keeping up appearances the best that we can.

In the face of a public Christianity that devalues women and villifies gays, the Episcopal Church stands for the breadth of God’s love. In a country obsessed with consumer goods, we share the simple materials of bread, wine, and oil as signs of God’s presence. “Unfriend” is now an accepted verb; we offer real relationships. Instead of severing connections in the quest for the new, the Episcopal Church values the thread of history and tradition that connects us to the eternal. But outside our church, who even knows about us?

We as a church have resolved to change, but we have not yet resolved how to do it. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church voted to establish a task force to restructure our national institutions. The Acts 8 Moment, a grassroots movement for church renewal, is gathering steam.

Today the Diocese of Indianapolis is collecting nominations for the task force for restructuring the diocese. It is unfortunate that the task force has such a wonky title. But the fundamental issue is this: it is time for the Episcopal Church to stop clinging to its past and managing decline. It is time for us to actively engage with the culture around us, where going to church is not a social expectation and Biblical illiteracy is the norm. It is time for us to manage our ample financial resources in a way that grows and serves the message of Jesus, not our self-image. It is time for us to change ourselves without losing the core that makes us Christians.

If you want to engage with these challenges, you may well be called to serve on the diocesan task force. But you have to let the the Executive Council know you are willing to serve. Nominate yourself or someone else with passion for the future of the church. Find everything you need to make that happen here. You have until December 22.

Betty White’s 2010 revival began with her lying in the mud. We’re there today, on the margins of American culture. And as the Rev. Suzanne Wille of All Saints, Indianapolis reflects in a recent sermon (also available in audio), that may be right where we belong:

As so often happens in the Gospels, truth and faith and Good News are found at the margins. It is the outcasts, the poor, the sick, who understand Jesus, the ones who help US see Him better, understand the Gospel better.

We reach this point with the ample resources of our liturgy, our plentiful real estate, and our objectively enviable finances, to say nothing of the grace of God. Our challenge is to focus less on ourselves and more on what has happened around us, to hang out on the margins, and to listen for what we are called to do next.

Reblogged from View from the Print Shop. A few details are specific to the Diocese of Indianapolis. If you know people in that diocese, make sure they know about this task force. The more nominations, the better!

“I Dream of a Church…” in Kentucky, by Amy Real Coultas

Here’s the version of “I Dream of a Church…” that we created from our exercise during the convention of the Diocese of Kentucky this weekend.

The convention had spent Friday afternoon in workshops centered on each of the 5 Marks of Mission, and so I let that be the backdrop for Acts 8.  Here’s what we did, in case it is a helpful model for anyone else out there.

 

  • Prior to the discussion, we assembled a baggie for each deputation’s table.  (The tables get cluttered with all kinds of stuff, so I wanted the Acts 8 items to stay together.)  These bags included blank index cards, an Acts 8 card I created*, and Acts 8 buttons.
  • I introduced the history of the Acts 8 Moment, and gave a very brief introduction to the pericope.  ‘In this portion of Acts, the institution seems to be disintegrating; it seems to be falling apart around them, and they’re not sure how to respond.  It is not too different than the 21st century context.  We remember, though, that the Holy Spirit has something in mind.  We know the Spirit is calling God’s people into something they don’t yet fully understand.  The people involved in the Acts 8 Moment discussions are committed to listening for where the Holy Spirit is calling the Episcopal Church, and wants to offer tools  for others throughout the Church to do the same.’
  • Asked each table to pass out the index cards.  I explained that at General Convention, and at other diocesan conventions and gatherings across the Church this fall, Episcopalians have been completing the sentence:  “I dream of a church that………”  I asked them to do the same by writing their dream on the index card.
  • I invited them to take the Acts 8 info cards and buttons with them.

 

*I created this using what I read from others who have led Acts 8 workshops.

 

Provoked to Love and Good Deeds… by Steve Pankey

Buried deep in the midst of Sunday’s not-so-happy set of lessons for the Sunday before Thanksgiving, is a nugget that is very much worth preaching.  In what my well-worn Student NIV Bible calls “A Call to Persevere,” the author of the Letter to the Hebrews challenges his readers with these words:

“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

This admonition is, I think, at the heart of what the Acts 8 Moment is about.  Acts 8 is a call to perseverance, a call to faithfulness, a call to encouragement.  Acts 8 is a reminder that when the stones of the temple are torn apart, God remains faithful to the people he loves so dearly.

Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Foley, AL is not in a crisis, thanks be to God.  Our most pressing issue in 2012 was how to fit all the people who wanted to worship with us in the space we have available.  Not a bad problem to have, if you ask me.  So, as we gathered last night for the 88th Annual Parish Meeting, we did so with hopeful expectation of what God had in store.  As we planned the flow of our classic church potluck supper, it became clear that looking back on where we’ve been is nice, but the more important work, the more exciting work, would be to get together and dream about what God has in mind for us in the years to come.  One way to facilitate dreaming is to hold an Acts 8 Gathering, and so that is precisely what we did.

The evening began with a prayer for a Church Convention of Meeting (BCP, p. 818).  We quickly dispatched with the business of the parish: electing vestry members and delegates to Diocesan Convention, and settled in for a fine feast of fried chicken, salads, slaws, pasta dishes, and more desserts than one could imagine.  As supper wrapped up, our Senior Warden addressed the gathering, inviting us to remember that God is capable of doing infinitely more than we can ask or imagine and challenging us to keep our imaginations working.

This proved to be a perfect entree into our Acts 8 gathering.  I started with a brief overview of where the Acts 8 idea had come from, including using Frank Logue’s great video from General Convention

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-GHMh-E_yQ&w=560&h=315]

I prayed the prayer for the whole Church (found variously in the BCP, including p. 280) and then around our tables we did a quick study of Acts 8:1-8.  After the first reading, we discussed what one item jumped off the page.  People noticed things like joy, healing, miracles, listening intently, waves, and being scattered.  After the second reading, we discussed what Acts 8:1-8 has to do with our church.  Here came thoughts like: we are scattered to come together, our call is to go out to bring people back, and a challenge to love ’em until they ask why.  Next, I asked that people come to the mic and finish the sentence, “I dream of a church that…”  Not everybody followed those directions, but between audio and video, I was able to cobble together some of what we dreamed.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sE5HPQSqhlw&w=420&h=315]

Here’s the full list:  I dream of a church that…

  • is full of people younger than me
  • does more and does not give up
  • welcomes everybody in the community, no matter who they are
  • is led by the Holy Spirit
  • doesn’t care what you dress like on Sunday
  • continues to recognize the needs around us and finds amazing ways to solve them
  • I had dreamed of finding a church just like Saint Paul’s
  • impacts every newcomer and visitor the way it did us 8 years ago
  • is filled with more young families
  • offers hope for a better life
  • is full of kids
  • inspires us to be closer to God
  • is as financially rich as it is in love
  • bridges the gap
  • is fill with all my friends (Halle, 5)
  • where every uses their gifts of time and talent
  • has the courage to follow the Holy Spirit
  • when one member stumbles, someone else is there to help them up
  • gives food to the needy
  • has more activities for children and youth
  • I am thankful for this church
  • is focused on the fact that we are the body of Christ
  • continues to teach and help me understand
  • believes and expects miracles
  • expects God to do the impossible
  • where joy is obvious
  • when someone says, “what if,” the rest respond, “why not”
  • where no becomes yes
  • recognizes all God’s blessings
  • where this happens every single day.

Last night, we provoked each other to love and good deeds. My prayer is that this continues far into the future.

Fearless Evangelism, Part VII … by Charles LaFond

This is the seventh in a series on evangelism by Charles LaFond.  For links to earlier posts in the series, see below. 

VII.  Can Christians Learn from our Mistakes?

If we look around our congregations and notice the average age, and if we notice the trends in the next generation’s disinclination to join, attend or fund churches as members; then we do this membership growth work or we will die out in 25 years. We could easily become like the Shaker communities –like the one in Canterbury, New Hampshire. We do not do evangelism to grow or even to maintain numbers – we do it for invitation to LIFE ABUNDANT. However there are costs to not doing this work.

The Shaker Village in Canterbury is a place of stunning antique beauty. It is empty of its original worshipers much like our Anglican Cathedrals and some charming churches. They are empty places which tourists visit for their beauty, asking shyly, politely where the people are who built them.

The Shakers made a choice: NO EVANGELISM. They said “We will not change our ways – no outreach. No procreation. No adaptation to the culture around us.” They had lots of money from what they invented, made and sold, so why bother reaching out…they could pay their bills. They stood by their unwillingness to change until the last house in Maine whose web site says this:

“The Community presently consists of eighteen buildings located on 1,800 acres of land… a tree farm, apple orchard, vegetable gardens, commercial herb garden, hay fields, pastures, a flock of sheep, and a variety of livestock.”

The description never mentions people.

There are four Shakers left at Sabbath Day Lake, the last shaker village with shakers in it, preserved by an endowment of $3.7 million. At the turn of the last century there were 60,000.

In 1800 there were 1,233,011 people in New England of whom 60,000 were Shakers or 2% of the then population. In 2010 there were 14,444,865 people in New England. If the Shakers had done nothing but keep their numbers stable to a percentage of population growth – there would be almost 300,000 shakers in New England today. Instead there are four Shakers in New England. Their houses and communities are currently all museums but one.

I recently baptized a little baby named Evangeline. I want there to be an Episcopal Church for her when she grows up and makes her adult life-choices in 25 years. What we do now – in this in-between time as the church molts from one form into another – may determine if there is an Episcopal church in 25 years or simply monuments to an intransigent, extinct church.

This is hard work but this is also great and exciting work. How do we move forward? What do we take home as tools to get this work done and face everything from ambivalence to resistance back in our parishes?

Next:  Forging New Neural Pathways

The Rev. Canon Charles LaFond is the Canon for Congregational Life in the Diocese of New Hampshire.  The Come and See Membership Growth Campaign Manual is online and the 7 minute video summary can be found here.  

This is the fifth in a series on evangelism by Charles LaFond.  Click for earlier installments:  Part 1Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6.  Check out Charles’ blog for the full text. And check out the Diocese of New Hampshire’s Evangelism Toolkit, on its website.

A Message from Canterbury, by Frank Logue

Message from Canterbury (1944) from British Council Film on Vimeo.

This week, The Episcopal Church celebrated the feast day of William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1942-1944. William was the son of Frederick Temple who had served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1896-1902. Despite his Archbishop father, William was originally refused ordination by the Bishop of London for not professing belief in the Virgin birth or bodily resurrection, two views he came to hold as he saw both the truth and the importance of the doctrine of the Incarnation. The video above features the wartime preaching of Archbishop Temple the younger during World War II as he sought to bring a sense of peace to a wartorn England. He sounds a little more English-schoolboy-like than I imagined, but the video is a glimpse into his leadership in time of war.

This week, the Anglican Communion also learned that the Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby, will become the successor to the two Temples and current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Welby is an evangelical who once worked in the oil industry before getting active at Holy Trinity, Brompton (HTB), as that church’s ALPHA Course went global. This means that the new Archbishop was formed at “HTB” which talks about a “mission-shaped church” and “fresh expressions” and now counts one of its most popular concepts as “cafe theology” – discussing belief in your local Starbucks.

What it means to have the evangelical Bishop Welby heading the Anglican Communion at this time, no one but God yet knows. For now, what comes next is a matter for prayer. For whether God is reconciling the world to God’s own self is a given, but the role the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church plays in that divine action remains an open question.

Building Acts 8 Community … by Adam Trambley

Recently a number of us from Acts 8 were talking about how monasticism and the neo-monastic movements might inform and strengthen our work in building up ourselves and our church.  Monastic habits are making a comeback, both as Benedictine virtues are applied to home and parish life, and as small groups of people form new, intentional communities.

In coming weeks, I hope to put together a few posts on aspects of monastic spirituality that might be relevant for our conversations in Acts 8.  These ideas come from my own experiences as an oblate for more than twenty years with the Benedictine Sisters of Erie and time spent with the ecumenical community of Richmond Hill.  Today, I want to talk about the monastic commitment to a specific community of people.

When people enter a monastery, they pledge their lives to a specific group of people in a specific place that has a particular manner of life, a particular focus of ministry, and the unique quirks of human relationships the call forth a full gamut of emotion from joy to exacerbation.  The closest analog most people experience is marriage, and monastics often referred to each other as brothers and sisters not just out of Christian piety, but because of a loving kinship forged between them.  In a good monastery, the love and intimacy among its members is palpable, and such love is compelling to newcomers, life-giving to members, and a true gospel witness to the world.

This love is not easy to attain.  While prayer and common purpose are essential, so too is what the Benedictines call stability.  We can only get to that level of love if we pledge ourselves to be together with this same group of people, doing what God calls us to do, until we grow into the people God has made us to be.  We can only be challenged to grow by people we are close to who we have agreed to stay close to even when they call us on our own failings and character defects and require us to grow up.  Without a commitment to stay with people we would sometimes rather leave, love cannot reach the depths necessary to transform our own hardened hearts, much less the church or the world.  Any talk of monastic spirituality that does not ground us deeply with particular, flawed, sometimes difficult individuals may be helpful development, but will not be able to call us to God when we need it most.

A key question before the Acts 8 Movement is, I think, whether we are willing to make the kind of significant commitment to one another that will allow us form such a community of love.  If so, then we need to figure out how to do so when we are scattered geographically and already have other commitments to families, parishes and dioceses.  Yet if we can make such commitments, or even a small core of us can in a way that grounds the rest of us, we could have an amazing calling.  Instead of working to change the church into the vision God has given us for it, we will change ourselves into such a loving household of God that the rest of the church will drop everything to join us.

I end here with a question and a quote.  The question is what you think about Acts 8 trying to become a community of deep personal relationships at a near monastic level and how that might be accomplished.  (Please comment below.)  The quote comes from Thomas Merton, and is a good reminder to all of us when we decide we are going to go out and do great things on behalf of God and the church:

Do not depend on the hope of results.  You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even acheive no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect.  As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.  You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people.  In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.  –Thomas Merton

Fearless Evangelism, Part VI … by Charles LaFond

This is the sixth in a series on evangelism by Charles LaFond.  See links to earlier posts in the series below.

VI. The functions of the Come and See Campaign

There are six simple functions of a Come and See membership Growth Campaign:

  1. The direct mail event -which raises awareness
  2. The training -as to how one tells one’s story
  3. The pledge card -so that everyone is working and accountable
  4. The living room conversations -in which an invitation is made to “come and see” where Jesus is at work among a group of people
  5. The examination –a self-critical examination of what people will find when they come to see (Is the building painted? Are the liturgies dull? Is the church clean and well cared-for?)
  6. The welcoming – of those who “come and see.”

These things are essential for membership growth, and if we do not grow, there is no point to managing the Koinonia program – no need to work to retain and involve a membership which never came in the first place.

Next: Can Christians Learn from our Mistakes?

The Rev. Canon Charles LaFond is the Canon for Congregational Life in the Diocese of New Hampshire.  The Come and See Membership Growth Campaign Manual is online and the 7 minute video summary can be found here.  

This is the sixth in a series on evangelism by Charles LaFond.  Click for earlier installments:  Part 1Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5.  Check out Charles’ blog for the full text. And check out the Diocese of New Hampshire’s Evangelism Toolkit, on its website.

Report from Acts 8 Gathering in the Diocese of Indianapolis … by Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale

The Acts 8 gathering at the convention of the Diocese of Indianapolis this past Friday is a textbook example of how not to plan just about anything.

Due to various distractions, I secured a spot on the convention’s calendar only 10 days before convention started. A comprehensive list of publicity efforts includes: a post on my blog, a mention in a diocesan e-mail, a post in the diocesan Facebook group, two tweets, a paragraph in the listing of events during the convention’s lunch break, and a sad little sign deposited on a table.

I arrived at convention, mildly catatonic and completely unprepared, two hours after a long flight home from Southeast Asia. Formal planning for the gathering included a brief conversation with my co-faciliator, the Rev. Suzanne Wille, who picked me up from the airport, and cribbing the outline from Susan Snook’s report on the Acts 8 gathering in Arizona during boring parts of the morning’s legislative session.

My slipshod organization should have doomed this to failure, but the room was soon full with 39 people from endowed program parishes and rural missions. The laypeople present were about the same age as the convention at large; the clergy skewed young. Most had not heard of the Acts 8 Moment.

We introduced ourselves, we prayed, and before long, the book of Acts was speaking to the people in the room. People talked about being prepared to listen for the spirit. They talked about being called to serve the Gospel, not the institutional church. They reflected on the spontaneity of both Philip and the eunuch, noting that Philip did not require the eunuch to take a class before baptizing him. One person, responding to the “wilderness road”, told a story of her parish opening its doors for a community meal with no agenda other than to see who would come in.

We dreamed of a church together. One person dreamed of a church that believes in its faith, instead of fear. An African-American layperson dreamed of a church with more people who look like her. A white priest dreamed of a church with more people who don’t look like him. One person dreamed of a church that is full, while another dreamed of a church that is empty because its members are doing God’s work outside its doors.

Afterwards I talked to participants who expressed appreciation for the workshop, particularly for the inherent optimism of the Acts 8 message. Most were surprised by the format – they were expecting a lecture, not an intimate encounter with scripture, the Holy Spirit, and each other. A priest consulting with four mission churches in a rural deanery approached me about using the Acts 8 model to help discern a new way forward. A parishioner at my church who wasn’t present but heard about it later, asked me for resources to help her deploy this workshop at her new post after she is ordained a deacon next weekend. Some people asked, “What now?” I had to be honest: I don’t know yet.

I do not recommend my disorganized approach to this. Its unlikely success is evidence of the hunger the members of our church have for this kind of conversation. They know the days of the institution we once knew are past, and are eager to discern what is next. May the Holy Spirit guide us.

Some notes on the format:

Susan Snook noted in her report from Arizona that the workshop practically runs itself. She is correct – if you’re interested in trying this out, don’t be anxious. Just take the outline and run with it.

The role of the facilitator is primarily to be a timekeeper and get out of the way. As far as division of labor, Suzanne thought it was simplest if one person had primary responsibility for the workshop. I ran most of it, but she did one of the scripture readings, and took notes on what people were saying. This turned out to be pretty comfortable, but other models would work just as well.

We followed the General Convention/Arizona outline almost exactly, with only two exceptions worth noting: 1) observing the demographics of the room, I decided that the “Generational Perspective” discussion could turn people off before we even got started and omitted it; 2) we did not record or use a microphone for the “I dream of a church…” segment, asking people to stand and speak from their seats instead. This section started very slow, but I just pretended it was a Quaker meeting and waited. It worked.

Breaking the participants into small groups is vital. There was lots of active conversation during the group discussion segment, but many people were shy about sharing with the full group. Acts 8 may have planted some seeds among these participants we’ll never know about.