So many of our posts urge church boards to risk more, to be bold, to try new things. We continue to be convinced that this is a moment for congregations and their leadership to appreciate the ways God’s Spirit is moving us in new directions toward becoming a more engaged and vital church.
But movement toward that future is not just about cutting a new path forward. That mentality can lead to an unhappy future in which only the most future-oriented are included in the “new church.”
This is the week that many Christian communities observe All Saints’ Day. It is a time to stop and remember those who have come before us and give thanks for them.
So, how about looking back, rather than pressing forward, at your church board meeting this month? How about spending just 20 minutes going around your table twice?
First, you might ask your colleagues to name those mentors and exemplars in their own lives who have shown them how to live, how to love, how to work toward integrity. (It could be a middle school teacher, a coach, an early colleague or supervisor, a parent, a neighbor, a pastor, etc.) Talk briefly with one another about who these mentors have been and what they have taught you.
Then, go around the circle again. This time, name those in your faith community – living or dead – who have gone before you and helped steer your ministry on its course. Who were the congregation’s founders? Who served on the church board before you? What did you – and what did the whole faith community – learn from them? Where is their legacy alive and well today, even as present challenges lead your church toward so much change.
We all stand on the shoulders of others. We forget this – as individuals and as a faith community – at our peril. Take time to remember and lift up the saints of your life.
Next month, you can press on to God’s future. This month, give thanks for the cloud of witnesses in your past.