Last week, I completed my Conference Minister Self-Assessment, part of the bi-annual Conference Minister Review included in my Terms of Call. As I began the document, I was inspired by a couple of Facebook quotes that reminded me of statements I made in my ministerial profile when I was called to the Central Pacific Conference. I share with you – the quotes and statement – then some further reflection.
The will of God is often revealed in the waiting, watching, and listening . . . unstopping the ears of our hearts to hear the faint sounds of earth breaking open, freeing the first shoots of God’s future, unfolding before us . . . and there are no shortcuts.
~ Ron Buford in the Still Speaking Daily Devotional * May 24, 2015
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Ministry often comes as a surprise, despite intentions and job descriptions. My work with each of the churches I’ve served has developed out of my relationship with the congregation and the community…. What will we accomplish as we join together in ministry? I don’t know yet. But as I live with you and hear your stories, the Spirit will speak… and I’ll listen.
~ Walter John Boris in my UCC Ministerial Profile * August 2, 2007
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Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
~ Howard Thurman – posted by the Center for Progressive Renewal * May 20, 2015
I reposted the quote, adding the comments, below.
“This idea of ‘coming alive’ is the foundation of my promoting ‘organic’ planning instead of ‘strategic’ planning. Too often, I’ve watch committees/churches spend tremendous amounts of time trying to guess what the world needs, then structuring their efforts around that guess. Even if they guess right, if no one has a passion for the project, it drags along, then spirals down to nothing. If they are wrong about identifying the needs, they spend time and energy doing something they didn’t want to do, and nobody came/cared. The result is frustration and disillusionment. I believe in nurturing passions/call. If only a few people come to your event, at least you are doing something you like/feel called to do. If it catches fire… even better! If each church member would focus on what makes them come alive, the congregation will have vitality, and people will be attracted!”
~ wjb Facebook post * May 20, 2015
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The three statements above, speak to the kind of leadership I strive to provide for the Central Pacific Conference. I define the style of leadership as a post-modern, adaptive leadership that is less hierarchical, and more cooperative and collegial. This post-modern leadership honors the concept of the body of Christ by valuing the gifts and contributions each individual brings to the effort. The energy and success of the CPC Climate Action Network, the CPC Palestine Israel Network, and the Annual Meeting Planning Committee have all come, in large part, from listening and nurturing. There are other passions bubbling up in the Central Pacific Conference. The Local Church Ministry Team is exploring a proposal for a Network focusing on ministry to older adults.
Do you have a passion for a social justice issue? Do you feel a call to do something to respond to a need? Write an article for On the Way. Offer to lead a workshop at Annual Meeting. Talk to folks at other churches. Can you find others that share your passion and your sense of call? If so, maybe there is enough energy and momentum to move from personal concern to a shared ministry. This whole process of starting at the grassroots reminds me of another inspiring quote from cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. ~ Margaret Mead
So, how do we respond to all the talk about the decline and death of the United Church of Christ? We ask ourselves what makes us come alive, then we go out and do it. We help others to ask themselves the same question. When we identify our “aliveness,” our passion and our call, we invite others to join us in the journey. The journey metaphor is particularly appropriate, since the early Christians called themselves, People of the Way. As we come alive, and respond to the call of love and justice in our lives, we follow Jesus,On the Way.
Yours in Christ, walter john