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Frequently Asked Questions of the Minister for Sustainable Mission 

By June 1, 2023No Comments

I thought I’d offer some answers to some of the questions I’ve received so far in my time with congregation. 

How can I find out about what the Sustainable Mission Team is up to and how can I get involved? 

Start by coming to the adult forum on Sunday, June 11 at 9am before the worship service at 10am.  There you will hear a more in-depth update of our work and get a chance to participate in conversation and reflection. This is an important step in our process and maximizing congregational participation is key.  You will also have a chance to meet our team members face-to-face.  At the 10am service we will commission our team.  The team members are Hillary Clayburgh, Michael Morrow, Arun Caspram, Lynnell Mickelsen, Stacy Walters, Rie Gilsdorf, Rex McKee, Lisa Wiens-Heinsohn, and me.  

The team will be visible and accessible to the congregation. Coming soon, there will be a display of our team members posted in the building and a webpage on the St. John’s website. Look for updates on the webpage and in the St. John’s eNews. And you can always ask me or one of our team members about what we’re up to. 

Along the way, members can learn what’s going on and plug in. This is the work of the whole parish! Periodically, we will hold sustainable mission adult forums, town hall-style meetings, and invite participation in congregational surveys and one-on-one interviews. These information sharing and listening engagements are a HUGE part of how we will listen and look for the Spirit’s movement among us.  

Who says we need to change? I like it here and people are generally happy. 

There is much to be grateful for at St. John’s. Members are generally content with how things are going, and our life together is joyful and vibrant. St. John’s is a wonderful congregation with much to offer is its members, and much has been given to the community and the world. How we prioritize and resource parts of our life together must change so we can continue to be a thriving congregation, well into the future for our sake and for the sake of the world. Our funding streams and resources don’t line up with expenses—and this is projected in the future, sometime in the next two (conservatively) to ten years. We are stable and secure at the moment. This is our opportunity to thoughtfully, prayerfully, and proactively plan well in advance for our future, so our mission, God’s mission made manifest through St. John’s, is financially sustainable. Should we decide to wait, we may have to face some tough decisions, and we may have fewer options in doing so. St. John’s leadership is being proactive, and that’s to be commended. We have the luxury of not being in distress in seeking a Spirit-led new way forward. This is not only good stewardship, but also faithful in every way! The community of St. John’s spans many generations, those in the past, the present AND the future.  

Is there a roadmap for this work? 

Yes! There are three main stages of this work: grounding and planning, discovery, and realignment. We are currently in the grounding and planning stage. The Sustainable Mission Team has met twice (we meet monthly) and is finalizing the timeline, process, and benchmarks for our work together. This will always be a ‘work in progress’ as we will shift our plans based on feedback and discoveries along the way, the natural pace of the work, and concentrating our energies in areas with momentum as indicated by the Spirit’s movement and grass roots response in the congregation. Our work will wrap no later than early 2025, when the team will issue a report to the vestry with our recommendations about our core mission and the alignment of resources, identifying what to embrace and what to let go of, as well as identifying sustainable funding sources.  

Why do we have to wait to do something new? 

We don’t! It’s already happening, and it’s slowly being revealed to us. It’s a ‘now’ and ‘not yet’ moment that we’re in (sounds Kingdom-like!). Conversations are happening, the Spirit is moving, leadership is open, curious, and courageous. St. John’s staff and clergy are continually reimagining. Along the way, we will be sharing more about what that looks like so members can be aware of the innovations the staff are ideating and executing. Our desire is to create an environment at St. John’s where ideating, innovating, and learning – ‘failing forward’- is welcomed, encouraged, valued, and prioritized. And if you serve in a particular ministry area, you are always welcome to ask questions about what you’re up to. Questions like:  

  • Is there a reason we’ve always done it this way?  
  • Does this reason still exist and make sense? If not, what might we do differently?  
  • Is there something we might consider laying down for a while to make room for something new?  

Everyone is invited to pray and reflect on their own area of ministry, to give thanks for what has been, and to listen to where God may be calling them.  

If you decide to try doing something differently in your ministry area, or decide to cease doing something, always ask for feedback and consider what the next step is and who may be affected. Please do discuss in advance with staff and clergy when it makes sense to do so. There is definitely a pastoral aspect of this discernment, and tending to that is a critical part of how we make a new way forward.  What has come before has laid the foundation for the present and the future and it is good! We must continually acknowledge this and give thanks.  

Where is Rena? 

When I’m not at St. John’s on a Sunday, I may be visiting other faith communities or organizations that have gone through a process of innovation and reimagination, on a ‘field trip’ of sorts. Or I may be accompanying Bishop Loya on his visitation to another congregation in my role as one of the ECMN archdeacons. I flex my 20 hours per week around the aforementioned. 

What about Rex? 

If Rena is here, and she’s a deacon, then how does this impact Rex? Congregations may have more than one deacon, just as we do with priests. Rex’s ministry among the congregation, in the community, and in ECMN remains the same. Rex and Lisa are integral members of the Sustainable Mission Team. Rex and I work together well. I’m lucky to get to serve with one of the most gifted deacons in ECMN! I also enjoy serving with Deacon Intern Colleen Swope and I’m eager to have her as a fellow deacon and a colleague.