In early 2023, the leadership of St. John’s made a bold and courageous move—naming the reality of church life after the pandemic and addressing the megatrends that have been adversely affecting church membership across the US for decades, while also naming this as an opportune time to be creative, adaptive, and forward thinking. Seizing this as a moment to listen for the Spirit’s calling in making a sustainable way forward, the desire for creating a process and hiring someone to shepherd and project-manage the process emerged.
I was hired in April 2023 in the newly created part-time staff position as the Minister for Sustainable Mission. I have a leading role in helping St. John’s do the work of adaptive change toward missional and financial sustainability, assisting our rector Lisa, to lead St. John’s through this two-year period. Under Lisa’s direction, my work began by assembling a core team and outlining a plan/process for our work together. The other members of the Sustainable Mission Team are Michael Morrow, Stacy Walters, Alex Musial, Hillary Clayburgh, Arun Caspram, Rie Gilsdorf, Lynnell Mickelsen, and Rex McKee. The team meets monthly and is divided into Working Groups: Alternative Financial Models, Neighborhood and Community Connections, Communications and Events, Planning, and Experiments and Surveys.
There are many points in the process for congregation and community members to participate. Some of these ways include prayer, surveys, interviews, adult forums, systems mapping, and taking part in and leading experiments (experiential learning opportunities). Join us in this exciting and wonder-filled ministry of Sustainable Mission and co-creating the future at St. John’s. We are learning about and from one another and sensing the Spirit’s leading, and we are reconnecting with our neighbors. Be part of playfulness and joy, and sometimes grief, as we acknowledge parts of our life together that may be passing away, as new and exciting directions and ways emerge.
Our core questions are:
- What part(s) of co-creating the Beloved Community is God calling St. John’s and its members to play?
- How are we uniquely gifted to answer this call?
- How will we resource ourselves to financially sustain this effort, in a way that is regenerative?
We recognize that:
- The Catechism states that “the mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” The church pursues its mission “as it prays and worships, proclaims the gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.” How we express this and live this out changes over time.
- The vocation of the church is to teach, support, and send into the world the followers (learners) of Jesus, in Christian community, to follow the Way of Jesus, the Way of Love, to support the mission of the church and be part of co-creating God’s Beloved Community. How we do this changes over time.
- The culture and the environment we find ourselves in has drastically changed over the decades.
- Traditional church financing models will likely not sustain us financially into the future.
- The Spirit, ever present, guides us, and leads us as we live out the church’s mission in the unique expression that is St. John’s – Minneapolis.
We choose to seize this moment, in faith, love and hope, and from a position of abundance by:
- Recommitting to our life as a congregation and to re-defining our part in God’s ‘project’ to heal the whole world with LOVE.
- Realigning our resources with this mission, God’s mission, now and into the future.
- Relearning how to listen to and follow the leading of the Spirit.
- Engaging the whole congregation in the ministry of discovering Sustainable Mission at St. John’s.
We will, with God’s help!
Your generosity, openness and creativity have blessed me and are a blessing in this ministry we share together. I am grateful to be able to do this work with and among you, if even for a brief time. Pray with me please, the Prayer for Good Courage:
Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils and joys unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Venerable Rena Turnham, Part-Time Minister for Sustainable Mission