Here is a brief recap of some of things we shared and heard the last two weeks during our discussions about our place in this neighborhood:
- We recognize the need for us to be filled with the love of God ourselves, so that everything we do flows out of that. We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). We also recognize the need for consistent, intentional practices that we can commit to doing together, even (and especially) when we might not feel like it. Love in the Bible is always tied to action, not just feelings.
- We affirm the need for both proclaiming the Good News in words and embodying the Good News in deeds. We want to honor Jesus with both our words and our actions, following both the Great Commandment (Mt. 22:37-40) and the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20). We desire to live out a holistic view of the Gospel that sees God’s redemptive work reaching every facet of life.
- We desire to have a presence in our community that is enlivened by the Holy Spirit and characterized by the fruit of that same Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. We want to see the gifts of the Spirit manifested among us in ways that bless our neighborhood and remind us that God is with us.
- We desire to cultivate good relationships with city officials and others in positions of authority. We want to build bridges with those who serve our city in this way and follow God’s command to respect and pray for them. Only then will we be able to address any issues of systemic injustice that we may encounter.
- We desire to be a church that consistently prays with and for its community. For those who commit to membership, actively praying with and for our immediate neighbors and blocks could be part of the covenant commitment.
- We desire to be a church that is real and genuine in our interactions with people in our neighborhoods. We acknowledge our own brokenness and seek to point to our hope in Christ and in His Spirit working to transform us and mold us into new people.
- We desire to share whatever gifts and abilities God has given us with each other and with our neighborhoods. We hope to bring some unity to all of our different visions for what God is calling us to, while also recognizing that God is already at work all around us. We want to look for Christ in the faces of all we interact with and recognize the gifts God has given them, too.
Below is a short synopsis of our conversation from this Sunday (October 2nd). A strong attempt has been made to group together the thoughts and responses that were most connected to one another:
Joshua Stoxen kicked off the conversation with a reflection on how we might seek to see where God is already at work and join Him and others there. He recalled Dave Barr’s sharing of the image of a open cistern with God’s water being poured in and overflowing outwards to bless others. Joshua reflected that in a sense, there are cisterns all over Norwood; we are not the primary bringers of God’s Spirit, but companions with other. He asked, “How do we listen and humbly join with others that God is pouring into?” He also recalled the work of CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) and their work in the larger church to bring together the call to social justice and the call to evangelize with words, reminding us all that the good news is not either/or, but the deep togetherness of both. So, the great call in Matthew 22 to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind” and “love your neighbor as yourself” is the framework for all we work towards.
Laura Menze: Sensitive to and aware of mental illness/addiction present in our neighborhood. In her work with Summit, she is sensitive to God’s beauty displayed through mental illness. That also brought to mind for her a desire for the building to be handicap accessible.
Angie Ferrell responded that she would love for chances to be educated about how to connect with and communicate well with persons with mental illness.
Angie moved on to wonder how we could partner with other churches to use our building in a more full way
Joshua Stoxen responded that in the Norwood Ministerial Association meeting last week, he mentioned the possibility of St. E’s as a church-based health clinic
Sandie asked, “Would there be a conflict experienced with the Norwood Health Clinic?”
Stoxen: “That’s a good question. One advantage of a church-based health clinic is that they have more freedom for spiritual conversations and therefore a more holistic care of persons.”
Mary: Could the building be used for child-care?
Don: “There’s a very diverse group of people here. Spreading our unique knowledge we might carry (hanging dry wall, mechanical, mental illness, etc) could be a practice we commit ourselves to (consistently spending time teaching others in practical, shareable skills)
Juli Thompson; “With just moving and around all new neighbors, I’m aware of the need for us to be authentic in our family-dynamics with our neighbors, to portray authentically who we are in interactions with them.”
Leslie Nixon: “It’s very helpful when talking with our neighbors to listen deeply to them. What do we hear? What needs do we sense?”
Sandie: “In the fundraiser Sarah Allen had at her home, we had a great conversation with the Mayor of Norwood and his wife. The conversation was of great benefit to both sides (old school Norwood meeting new school Norwood).
Greg York: Shared a reflection of his of late, that we carry lots of dreams, but we don’t have to start them all, or carry them all. He recalled a transformative conversation he had with a Norwood city official recently. He’s had some frustration in relationship with the city, but the official shared why he pursued working in his position; because he grew up in Norwood and really wants to see the community thrive again. Greg felt reminded of the need to bless the city officials in their work more and seek to understand their story too.
Nathan: Shared of a spectrum he’s had in his mind where one extreme is a community that consistently, habitually does good things, but without joy, without deep love, and the other extreme is a community that has lots of good ideas and has a desire to love, but whose practice is very inconsistent or non-existent. The middle would be the ‘sweet spot,’ where deep love and consistent practice ‘hold hands’ together. He observed his perspective that if we’re honest as a community, we’re very far over in the spectrum towards the community with a desire to love with very inconsistent practice. “So in order to have more balance, we need to choose to emphasize practices we can consistently carry out, even if it feels too tough, to grow our capacity over time. We’ve mentioned in the Discernment Time that we would like to have a community meal where our neighbors are invited. In order to grow in consistency, maybe we need to start at a place that we know we can handle. We’ve seen how our consistency in eating together weekly has petered out over the course of the Discernment Process. Can we begin with a once-a-month meal, and maybe after a year, or several years, or a decade, move to maybe twice a month as we build the capacity for consistency, and our neighbors can grow to know we are trustworthy with that time and space?”
Tom Wuest: Shared, “During the listening prayer time, I had an experience where I was sitting on an airplane beside Jesus, and he was in the window seat. As I sat beside him, I just felt like it was strange, so I asked ‘Jesus, why are you here?’ Jesus looked out the window, and said, ‘These clouds are awesome. I remember when we had the idea for water evaporating up and being caught in this way. They’re so beautiful!’ I responded, ‘Yes, but Jesus, we’re separated from the clouds in this metal container. Don’t you feel exiled here?’ Jesus said, “Yes, but I am also deeply present here. I am an exile wherever I go, but I am also deeply present.’ And I said to him, “I need to learn how to do that. I feel the sense of exile so deeply, and I need to learn how to be deeply present like you.'”
Tom then left the story to give his response to Nathan, saying, “When it comes to being deeply present to our neighbors, the idea of a common table, of a regular open community meal, is something I find deeply welcoming. I desire that.”
Todd Long: Shared about the importance of having a point person to communicate in simple consistent ways about the things we have said we will do. He wondered if this may have contributed to the inconsistency of meals during the Discernment Process.
Kenny Havens: Commented that he was sensitive to the need for that communication to not just be electronic to be as accessible as possible to as much of our community.
There is more that was shared, but hopefully this captures a good slice of it. Feel free to add comments below about what you heard (or didn’t hear) and were encouraged (or discouraged) by. We will be transitioning to talking about the building this Sunday, while continuing to hold our larger place in the neighborhood in view.
Also, as a reminder, if you have yet to do so, please fill out our short survey about the discernment process. You can find it here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/D3GZWPQ. We definitely value your input!