An update from the trail
It is hard to believe that in a few short months I will have been with you for two years. As interim ministry goes, this is a long one. But that is by design. The needs and concerns presented to me by the Interim Search Committee and the Board in the fall of 2021 spoke to a congregation in need of some peace, stability, and healing after a long period of instability and trauma.
Lately I've been hearing that some people have questions about where we are in the process. Pretty normal for this stage of the journey. Let me see if I can answer some of your questions as I understand them.
Where have we been?
When I first got here, I published a proposed plan for these first two years of interim tasks. We have accomplished a fair amount of what I had hoped we would by this point. We have held Healing Circles, listened to one another, had conversations about who we think we are and what we feel called to. Much of this work has been framed by the need to create a new governing methodology that reflects our need for both freedom and accountability. I have worked hard to make this process as collaborative as possible, keeping in mind that there are things I know as an expert that you do not. I had us read Canoeing the Mountains because the leadership style expressed in the Lewis and Clark story is one of collaboration and guidance.
Along the way, new information has been brought to light, some historic patterns of thinking and behavior have reemerged, and the oh-so-normal desire to go back to the way "it has always been done" has informed the speed with which we have moved through certain things. I had initially hoped that the new Bylaws could have been adopted in June. However, the speed of the Body (our collective capacity) has required the process to slow down a bit, which has allowed more space for thinking, imagining, and preparing for the next part of the trip. I can say with certainty that we are getting the new canoes ready to head down the Columbia having spent the time needed moving through the mountains on foot.
The Governance Team has been hard at work taking all of your comments from the Cottage Meetings in June and July and incorporating them into the second draft of the new bylaws. This second draft will go to the Board for review and comment next week. I suspect a special meeting will be scheduled so they can spend a concentrated amount of time thinking together, asking questions, and offering more feedback on the model being proposed. The Governance Team will then create the third draft so you can participate in a congregational workshop before the final draft is offered for adoption at a Congregational Meeting. It would be great if we could adopt the new bylaws before year's end but that may be too ambitious an idea based on all of the things happening between now and the end of the year. Annual Meeting at the end of January is a more likely date, but I hold out hope for the earlier date.
Once we get the new bylaws adopted there will be a season of training for both leaders and everyone else. Learning to live into this new model will mean we are all starting from scratch. No one will have done this before, and we will all need to participate in the labor of growth and exploration. We will all need to find our new place within a governance based in collaboration, freedom, and accountability.
This is an active process, one that makes room to question the assumptions we have shared for many years. It will keep asking us - as individuals and as a congregation - to orient ourselves toward what is downstream, the future. I believe this will open the door to creativity around our miniseries, building, staffing, and budgeting, as we imagine a future where living into our Covenant as people of faith is the center of our shared life.
Why Does It Matter?
Having a shared life based in creativity, authenticity, and hope anchors us to a possibility of true belonging. In a time when too many have no person-to-person place of belonging, being the Beloved Community on earth really matters! Humans need belonging where they can be seen and known for who they are. I believe this is what Jesus meant when he said, "Whenever two or more are gathered, I am there." His mediating presence between us helps us see each other as God sees us - beloved people made in God's image.
To create that space of belonging and belovedness has always been the mission of the church. It was the intention of Obed and Charlotte Dickinson, and, I believe, it remains our call today. All the meetings, circles, conversations, services, meals, study groups, paint parties, movie nights, retreats - everything that we have done and will do during this interim season - is designed to ensure that our call to be a place of belonging and belovedness remains possible for generations to come.
As always, I am humbled and honored to be sharing this season with you. Every day I am blessed to paddle, trudge, dance, sing, and fly with you!
With a grateful heart,