This past Tuesday fourteen members and staff gathered to talk about how our call to be sanctuary might get lived out through the mission and outreach ministries of our faith community. The conversation was rich, exciting and faithful. We organized the conversation around my spiritual director’s status-quo flipping “Be, Do, Have” wisdom (know first what it is you are ‘to be’, which should define what you do, which in turn defines what you need to have—as opposed to our reversed cultural norm which focuses on having (read stuff), which drives doing, and if we are lucky we consider our being).
Being Sanctuary: We began with a (long) alliteration designed to express our being: Sanctuary UCC is an open and progressive faith community offering refuge, restoration, renewal, response, re-engagement–and love, always love. Faith formation is a circular process that we can enter at any place in the process. It includes finding refuge in God’s love and our love for each other, being restored and renewed through those relationships, receiving energy and inspiration for a response, re-engaging in ministry through action—and then returning for refuge as required.
Doing Sanctuary: We asked, “How does our call to ‘Be Sanctuary’ get expressed through our ministries of mission, service, justice seeking and outreach to others?” The response was inspiring! We listed the many ways that our congregation has been doing outreach over the last few years and wondered if these continue to be our call. Rev. Tom observed that we are uber-active in mission/service and need to take care that we are both attentive that our projects are consistent with the core being and not burning us out!
We found ourselves wanting to continue with most all of our outreach ‘doing’ and frankly, we added a few things! But we observed that we must learn how to tell the story of our mission activity as we invite others to join us. A key characteristic of our new model of church is that we will not invite others to come to church or join as members but rather we will invite folk to be with us in mission and ministry to others. Everyone needs meaning and purpose in their lives and one way we will be sanctuary is to help other folk to experience that by serving others. We will need to be sanctuary by being facilitators as well as doers of Christ’s call to love neighbor. The story of what we do to serve and why we do it is very powerful. At the heart each of these ministries is the spiritual practice of generosity. We just need to learn how to share that story with others and invite them to join us in our passion. (Note: This is a key tool of Community Organizing and we will learn how to do this over the next few months.)
But the story is not only about the donations and the doing—it is also about the justice seeking inherent in each of the ministries in which we serve. Whether it is the care packages we send to the Indigo Shelter, the coffee we sell for HOKA at the Pine Ridge Reservation, or the sandwiches we make for the Outdoor Church—there is always a chance to act on behalf of systemic change. We can teach about the domestic violence that lands young women in shelters. We can educate people about the horrible racial and economic injustice our country perpetuates against Native Americans and the rampant alcoholism, unemployment, illiteracy and poverty that ensues. We can work for changes to the laws, support services and cultural implications of homelessness. And we can be a voice for God’s Creation by finding ways to express our faith through a commitment to a healthy environment.
Having Sanctuary: Finally, we spent some time in conversation about the desire for an investment and tithing policy that would a) protect our financial resources, b) provide us with income for the future, and c) institute a commitment to generous giving and service. We really enjoyed this moment of being in the midst of God’s abundant grace and talked about how to stay there! We made a commitment to each other that we would work to steer clear of financial fearfulness (the theology of scarcity—aka: living in Scare City) and we had a lot of fun imagining giving big gifts to missions about which we care. Much more is to be discussed and these policies and possibilities will come before a congregational vote, but for those in the room last week there was real joy about the possibility of making a big difference in the mission of Pine Ridge’s ReMember and other possibilities such as CMS, Outdoor Church, Heifer International, Bread for Life, and more.
We praise God for the opportunity to think big and bold—and for the investment of so many (from the past and from this moment) that allows us to imagine such glorious ways to be a sanctuary for the Lord.
With blessings and prayer,
Rev. Wendy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For more on this theme, see last week’s blog post “Blessed to be a Blessing.” This will be the theme of this year’s stewardship campaign.