Task Force, Part 2

Do you remember on Happy Days when Richie, Potsy, and Ralph were in a band that occasionally sang at Arnold’s diner? They always closed their sets by thanking the audience on behalf of “Me, Potsy Webber, and … the band.” The band had no name. That sucked. Our task force also has no name, so for the moment I’m calling us … no, not the band, but that’s a good guess. I’m calling it the Looking Forward Task Force because we’re literally looking forward to the next stages of ministry for both First Lutheran and Prince of Peace.

Tonight we met for our second time, though two people had scheduling conflicts that came up at the last minute. That shifted our agenda some, but it wasn’t much of a problem after all, because we’re like guerrilla church that way: small, flexible, agile.

As we met tonight, we talked a little about resources and creating a resource bank, not only for the current crop of Looking Forward folks, but for all of us to draw on as we envision where to go next.

But the biggest chunk of the meeting was the sharing we did, and the chance to get a little cohesion as people on a common mission. We shared some of our hopes, some of the things that give us the cold anger (as opposed to hot-headed anger) to motivate us to action. The continued racial divide in our city, state, and country … and now that I think of it, our Synod and Cluster … is one source of that anger. For people living more than a half century after the great progress of the Civil Rights Era, and for people who claim to follow Jesus, a dark-skinned, Middle Eastern man, we still tend to be divided. We haven’t been willing enough, committed enough, to risk the comfort of worshipping alongside people who don’t look like us or travel in our social circles. We’d like to make a concerted effort to see that change.

Why change at all? Well, it doesn’t take a genius to see that both of our congregations follow the downward shift in weekly worship attendance. We’re also greying in both churches. We’re at that point on the church life cycle – the one that begins with growth until it reaches a peak, then begins to decline, and from that point can either continue the decline unto death or intentionally engage to revitalize – where we’re clearly on the decline side. Nobody wants to see their congregation die, and so the question becomes: do we just do hospice until we’re gone, or do we want to fight for something that stands for Good in this place? That might lead to one kind of death (i.e. church as we know it now) but result in new life (church in a new form, new place, with new people, new energy, new passion for the gospel). That’s where we’re at. The people in this small group are dedicated to the latter. So we talked about it.

We also talked about food in a number of ways. Nicole has been working with PoP to reinvigorate the little garden on their property. Right now it’s loaded with jalapenos, but usually there are other food items in there, as well. And Ava remarked that she has been able to observe movement in the neighborhood, noticing that there are a number of people who come by the little garden almost on the daily to see if there’s anything they can harvest. That’s a great thing.

As part of our food talk, we discussed things that tend to bring us together the most successfully, at least historically speaking, and that tends to involve pot lucks. People who normally won’t come to worship will come to enjoy fellowship and food. And Nicole discussed some work that her former congregation in OKC did in partnership with Life.Church to open a grocery store in the East OKC food desert. Food is where it’s at, and that might give us some kind of clue about how to move forward.

Even though we started the meeting somewhat inauspiciously, we all were able to share a word that described or defined how we felt about tonight’s gathering and prospects for future ones. Here they are, for your edification:

Bob: Progress
Nicole: Energy
Ava: Connected
Rob: Hopeful

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