On September 17, 25 people from four congregations and one ecumenical ministry met at Wesley United Church in Cambridge to begin a journey called “Into the Promise.”
Into the Promise is a collaborative learning project initiated by Rev. Christine Jerrett, a
United Church minister from
Sarnia. It is based on the work of author and consultant Alan Roxburgh, using
his recent book Joining God, Remaking
Church, Changing the World.
Alan argues that churches in North America are in the midst of a “great unraveling.” The church that many of us were raised in seems to be coming apart. We have spent almost fifty years trying to “fix the church” – trying to find solutions that will stop people, especially young people, from leaving. But none of those efforts have worked. The church can’t be “fixed” – not in the sense of recreating the church we once knew.
Alan argues that this unraveling is actually the work of the Spirit. God is active in the world. And God still needs the church.
But the basic questions have changed – from “church questions” (“How can we bring people back? How can we “fix” the church?”) to “God questions” (“What is God doing in our neighborhoods and communities, and how can we join God?”)
This is a fundamental shift in vision and orientation, and it demands that we develop a new set of practices. Alan outlines five of these practices:
· Listening. Learning to listen deeply to one another, to Scripture, to our neighborhoods and communities.
· Discerning. Learning to see what God is up to in the lives of people.
· Experimenting. Learning to develop simple, practical, “lightweight” ways of joining with God.
· Evaluating. Asking, “What did we do? What are we learning? Where did we see God at work?” (And, not being afraid to fail!)
· Deciding. Creating new, sustainable ways to be the church.
These deceptively simple practices involve learning a new set of skills. That’s what the
Into the Promise is not a typical study program with a beginning and an end. Its purpose is to begin to shift the culture of our congregations. It involves learning to see things in a different way and to undertake new practices.
Into the Promise is also designed to be collaborative. Congregations will share with one another what they are doing and what they are learning. And the hope is that others will benefit from that learning in the future.
The “great unraveling” that Alan Roxburgh describes is disruptive and stressful. But it is also a time a hope and excitement because the Spirit is at work creating a new future.
Who’s involved in Into the Promise? Wesley United, Cambridge; St. Luke’s United, Cambridge; St. John’s-on-the-Hill, Cambridge; Rockwood-Stone Pastoral Charge; Knox United, Ayr.
Want to know more about Alan Roxburgh’s work? Visit www.themissionalnetwork.com
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