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The Congregational Church of West Medford is now doing business as Sanctuary UCC.

Dream a Little Dream—of We!

dream_catcher_by_fucute-d5lwg15As the vision of ministry for our mighty, little faith community unfolds right before our eyes, as the shape of that ministry takes on some pretty fabulous form, and as the implications of our vision and mission for our city inspire us—I am ever so grateful that you allowed a handful of us to begin the leadership development journey into which we have stepped via LDI (The Leadership Development Initiative offered by the Episcopal Diocese of Mass:

Now, you may be feeling as though you do not know what that ‘vision for ministry’ is – and in part you are right. We have not yet issued statements about the “Recommendation for a Bold Decision.” We have identified the Shared Values and a Draft Mission Statement (click on these links to review) and these have fueled the unfolding of our vision.

And, over the last few weeks, especially as we have left the sanctuary for worship and been in conversations about the practical aspects of selling the property—a picture, nay, a dream has unfolded in the hearts of your leadership team and it is brilliant! It has happened in part because, with the input of the Real Estate folk, we can really imagine what it will be like to be freed from the burden of our property and our institutional way of being (and that it will happen very soon). But it has also happened because the Holy Spirit is at work amongst us and abundance, creativity and possibility is driving the thinking of your leadership team. So, here are some clues to the recommendation that is being crafted as I write this, and that will be presented to you next Sunday, April 13—after our Palm Sunday Worship.

We are dreaming of a progressive Christian community that is experiencing the sacred in everyday, ordinary moments; building loving relationships with God and each other; and is discovering old and new spiritual practices that leave one refreshed and inspired. We are dreaming of a rag tag, wildly diverse group of questioners and believers (and everything in between) who are forming faith at home and together through worship, ritual, prayer, practice, service and study. We are dreaming of making a difference in the lives of people who would not ordinarily come to “Church” but who will find “church” in us.

We are dreaming of threshold moments where the stuff of our regular lives becomes the stuff of holiness and grace. We are dreaming of worship that challenges and amazes and community that is called to care. We are dreaming of a place where there are no barriers to entry and where the table of hospitality is set with love and forgiveness and grace and you can’t help but want to sit down and be fed.

We are dreaming of having some classic forms of worship where we will go to a sanctuary somewhere and have an order of worship and pray the way we love to pray and sing hymns and hear The Word. And we are dreaming of new ways of praising God—through online practices, drop in meditation, experiences of Nature and study groups that do not look like church as we know it, but that bring us in touch with our Creator.

We are dreaming of moving out of our big, beautiful building and building bold, beautiful big-ness on the move. We are dreaming of a welcome center in the public square that offers hospitality seven days a week and where people can drop in to laugh and cry and find a faith that works for them. We are dreaming of action that expresses what we stand for—of being “those Christians” that advocate for justice and make a difference in the lives of people in need, that feed the hungry and clothe the naked and take seriously Jesus’ call to love our neighbor. And we are dreaming of a people so blessed, so transformed by their experience of being a part of this dream – that they cannot help but invite others to join them on the journey!

I suppose I could write and write and write about this dream because I cannot help but share the glory of it—but I’m guessing you have reached the end of your rope. And you are wondering just how, in bloody h—, our weary little group could make something so bold and big happen!?!?

Well, in part we will ask you to take a risk and courageously support our recommendation for a bold budget that includes the staff and tools to make a go of this “new ministry.” You will hear plenty more about this next week. But we will recommend that we support the dream for at least a couple of years (with measurable milestones along the way to indicate if we should continue or quit) with plenty of resources to make a real go of it.crop380w_community_hands

But, I started this post by expressing my gratitude for LDI and I believe the leadership practices therein will be the key to making this dream a reality. The practices are easily transferred to others. Through these ‘community organizing’ practices (from Marshall Ganz), we will all be equipped to participate in the dream:

  • Public narrative – how to tell stories to move others to join you in collective action;
  • Relationship-building – how to explore and make mutual commitments around shared values and interests;
  • Team-building – how to build teams with a clear purpose that are stable, motivated, and accountable;
  • Strategy – how to create a clear, compelling plan for turning the resources you have into the power you need to make the change you want;
  • Action – how to design events that achieve measurable goals, expand resources, and develop individual leadership.

9a26554741-fen-shuj-ezoterika-lovets-snov-zvezda-polyn-n7257Yes, beloved, I am dreaming a dream—of we. A dream for you, for Medford and for Jesus. Please join us next week for more about how we might ‘be this we’!

With blessing and prayer, Rev. Wendy Miller Olapade/

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