Discernment is an ever-increasing capacity to “see” the work of God in the midst of the human situation, that we can align ourselves with whatever God is doing. Discernment is a quality of attentiveness to God that, over time, develops our sense of God’s heart and purpose in the moment. (“How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You Are Going” by Susan Beaumont, p 68)
In the last number of years, we have been experiencing decline in our congregation, like many other mainline protestant churches. Over those years the boards and congregation have explored ideas and dabbled in possibilities. (“Reimagining Church” series at Good News, Congregational retreats, “Food, Faith and Future”, etc.) In 2018, at the direction of church council the Unified Board set up a Future Visioning Study Committee to help our congregation move through a process to understand the challenges in our future and to begin the work of meeting those challenges together.
In two events, one in May and the other in July, the congregation gathered for conversation and reflection on the current state of our congregation. There were a variety of ideas for how we might meet the challenges from merging with another congregation, closing our doors, redevelopment of our property, becoming a Moravian fellowship, etc. Then in September, we met with Rev. Susan Nienaber, who shared that our congregation is in the good company of many other communities of faith who are working to discern what God wants them to be about in a changing world. She told us that many congregations in our situation either chose to Re-innovate which requires a large shift in the way we do things to enter into a new growth cycle or they move to considering the Legacy they want to leave to their community. These conversations have now been marinating in our minds for the month of October. You may have an idea of what you think would be best for the congregation or what your personal preference would be, which is important information. However, before we delve into more decisions, let’s take some time to listen for God in the midst of this. In her book, “How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You Are Going”, Susan Beaumont writes about the differences between decision making and discernment. Both processes are vital to one another but they are not the same. In discernment she encourages us to enter into listening without our own predetermined opinions, as much as we can, so that we can listen freely to the Holy Spirit’s guiding among us. In the next 8 weeks, we are all invited to this practice of discernment. This is difficult work and we all need to lean into compassion and patience with one another because we each come to this time holding different expectations, hopes and fears. It is my hope that this time of discernment will help us to find some common ideas to explore and that we will find doors opening for us.