It has been a couple months since the last blog post featuring St. John’s parish in Vernon and St. Monica’s parish in Hartford, and their participation with Joining Jesus in this new Missional Age (JJMA).
When we met St. John’s and St. Monica’s, they were just beginning in this journey, and now they have finished their first module of work. The timeline breakdown for the commitment to JJMA began looks like this:
- February – March: Introductions
- April – August: People of Relationship
- September – December: Listening Without Agenda
- January – March: Stories in the Neighborhood
- March – May: Discerning
Module one focused more on becoming people of relationships rather than outcomes. It was an invitation to the parish team members to cultivate a new awareness of the people in the neighborhood and not just in terms of evangelism, recruitment, or outreach potential. Instead, people we invited to just be.
Before reaching out to the parishes, I asked the Rev. Tim Hodapp, Canon for Mission Collaboration and one of the key leaders in JJMA, to share some of his thoughts about how this new try-on has been going, and what he has seen from a larger scale. Tim offered three broad questions for the whole of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut (ECCT) to think about and explore.
- What might happen across ECCT if some people within some parishes were to actively explore how to join Jesus in the places where they work and live, play and pray?
- And, what would it look like if joining in what Jesus is up to became a primary way that these people began to see the world around them?
- And finally, what if these folks, as they gather to pray and go out to practice, were to regularly reflect together, share co-learnings within their small teams and alsowith other parishes?
From Tim Hodapp:
Just how deeply integrated and broadly dispersed might this movement be? Well, we’re finding out.
In our ongoing experiment of engaging five spiritual practices (listening, discerning, trying on, reflecting, and deciding), we’re doing our best to explore together what Joining Jesus in this new Missional Age set out to do. Ten of our parishes and our Cathedral have formed small practice teams, including clergy facilitators (rectors, a deacon, and an assistant rector), and coaches trained in the spiritual practices.
Launched in February, Al Roxburgh from The Missional Network spent several days with our clergy team leads, coaches, and parishioners who learned about the initiative and practiced the basics. Since then, our Joining Jesus Teams have gathered together each month to explore how to become a “people of relationship rather than outcomes.” Learning how to listen with God’s ears and see with God’s eyes requires training, a bit of discipline, and focus. By cultivating an awareness of people in their neighborhoods, our teams are just beginning to learn how their parishes are connected in the community.
As one team member put it, “This isn’t easy. Sitting on a bench. Not doing anything except listening, watching, and asking God what I should notice? I’d rather hand out cold bottles of water.” (“Being with” rather than “doing for” doesn’t come naturally for most of us.) “Even so,” the team member continued, “I like it. There’s something pretty cool about asking God to show me something. I haven’t been disappointed!”
What is coming up in the next module? Our teams practice listening in conversation with people in our neighborhoods.
Interview with the parishes:
I reached out to St. John’s, Vernon and St. Monica’s, Hartford and asked them four questions about the first module, here are their responses.
- In the last three months, what have you learned?
- St. John’s: We have learned that St. Johns does A LOT in the community and that there are so many more opportunities to be with than we realized. We do a lot around food insecurity and stewardship of the environment. We need to start with these pathways and learn more and practice more about being with rather than doing for.
- St. Monica’s: I have learned how deeply committed my team is to truly be with our community and important they this work is. I was reminded how difficult it get busy people’s schedules to mesh!
- How have you learned about each other in this process?
- St. John’s: We have learned that we are all bringing different backgrounds, histories, and strengths to the table. Just being together and listening to what each person has to offer has been another opportunity to be with each other and listen to learn instead of listening to reply. We are becoming more aware of the impactfulness of being with and we are beginning to recognize the difference it can make and we are definitely embracing it.
- St. Monica’s: We have learned what keeps each of us up at night…what’s on our hearts that leads us to want to reach out to others.
- How has your group embraced the spiritual practices? Are there specific ones that are easier than others/more difficult?
- St. John’s: We believe we have enjoyed and embraced dwelling in the word as we have moved through these meetings, and also centered ourselves in prayer ahead of time.
- St. Monica’s: The most cherished time has been Dwelling in the Word together.
- Where has God shown up in this work?
- St. John’s: Everywhere. I think that each of us now has a story about an opportunity help or be with a person who truly needed it that we may not have recognized before these conversations. We are thinking of Kelli’sexperience with the gentleman on the plane, Jim’s experience with the couple trying to fix their bike, Melissa in the classroom, Gretchen and Jim on the Rails to Trails with water for folk on a hot day, and Shirley’s experience with her neighbor, among others.
- St. Monica’s: We go into this work knowing that we are doing it together.