You wouldn’t immediately think that emergency preparedness and relief work, and creativity in mission would be connected but if you attended the Missional Voices Gathering recently in New Orleans, you’d be pleasantly surprised. This annual gathering of lay, clergy, youth leaders, educators and seminarians brings together those who imagine a more relational, more diverse, more collaborative, more hopeful, and more agile Episcopal Church. Creative connections around our church resulted in surprising life.
Resilience was this year’s theme. We heard from the Rev. Canon Debra Maconaughey whose small church helped revitalize hurricane-devastated Marathon, Florida by partnering with other community agencies. Because of the work of St. Columba’s, Marathon is the site of the Florida Keys Celtic Festival.
We also learned how the Episcopal Diocese of New Orleans and the Jericho Road initiative helped the community rebuild affordable, green housing for those whose homes were destroyed by Katrina.
Asset-based community development helped us look at how to be resilient in using our congregations’ many gifts by examining the five Ps: physical property, people, purpose, purse, and programs.
We also used the Facts-Association-Meaning-Action (FAMA) method of Bible study, a more accessible way of studying scripture. First we examine the facts, noticing what happened. Then we think of association, considering how we relate this story to our personal experiences. We notice if the characters remind us of ourselves or someone in our lives. Meaning has us asking what the larger themes from this passage might be. We then note any new learnings. Finally, because we are to be about transforming the world, we consider action in discussing what we’re inspired to do based on this interaction with scripture.
It was great to reconnect with former San Diegan, the Rev. Monica Mainwaring, vicar of the Church of the Common Ground, a churchless community on the streets of Atlanta. She brought seven interns from her community who were eager to learn about how to be church in the 21st century. I look forward to reconnecting with her and Simon in January 2020 for the Rooted in Jesus initiative that aims to connect formation, evangelism and outreach ministries.
Exciting things are happening all over the Episcopal Church, thanks to the TryTank initiatives. Led by the Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija, who encouraged us to explore what the job our neighborhoods need doing and then go about exploring ways our congregations can meet those needs. Fr. Lebrija encouraged us to experiment and, in the experimentation, embrace and learn from failure. Throughout the church, some sixteen initiatives are being studied. They range from an online Latino music library to downloadable sermons for the homebound to theological explainer videos.
Links to workshop materials are available here: https://www.missionalvoices.com/resources/. If you or your congregation would like to learn more about how to respond to God’s call in the neighborhood, contact the Rev. Deb Seles, 760-346-2697 x 108 or 847-707-5390.
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