“Stand at the edge of the property and look outward.” That is how priest and journalist Tom Ehrich recently described the best future of the church. This certainly seems to be the posture of the 78th General Convention From the presiding bishop’s call for us to “go boldly where one man has gone before”, to multiple legislative conversations about structure for mission, to the bishops’ plan to walk the streets Sunday morning in protest of gun violence .
All four presiding bishop candidates called us to evangelism. Any one of them would help us move beyond the church grounds. Each in his own way would help us Go to the edge and look out.
I serve on the Congregational Vitality committee, and in this setting with approximately 30 other bishops, clergy and lay deputies we have explored ways this outward stance is already happening and may be more expressed at the grass roots level. We have heard exciting testimony about church plants in new neighborhoods, ministries in coffee shops and laundry mats, and efforts to nurture worshipping communities among people that underrepresented in the church. This would include young adults, people with disabilities, lower income groups, and people of color. We have been asked to consider what treasured parts of our heritage – buildings, worship styles, longstanding programs – might we need to lay aside in order to travel lightly through our neighborhoods.
It made me think of some signs of this posture in our own diocese – gatherings of young adults, campus outreach at UK, mountain work projects. What might we Episcopalians in our part of Kentucky need to let go to move into God’s desired future? What old ways might need to die so that new ways may emerge? What pruning is necessary for new growth?
This work is both scary and exciting. There is always the fear we may lose something important to our identity. But Jesus tells us we can’t find ourselves unless we lose ourselves, giving up ourselves to God’s service.
An old anonymous quote says it all: “I sought my soul, my soul I could not see. I sought my God, my God eluded me. I sought my neighbor and found all three.” Let’s go to the edge of the property and look out- and move out. God is calling us.