This weekend in worship at National Avenue, as we observed Epiphany, we used some thoughts from Jan Richardson. In light of the journey of the Magi, Jan wrote this week about a Christmas gift from her parents. The gift was a wonderful book entitled, Mapping the World: Stories of Geography. The book traces some of the history of how people have sought to chart the universe, and our place within it, over millennia. In thinking about maps, Jan suggests that an interesting question arises: “In a world that we enter with no map in hand, no book of instruction, how do we find our way…?” Although, there are of course, no real answers to this question—that’s not actually the point—it can remind us how crucial it is to have the company of wise travelers as we make our own maps.
Last night, about 18 leaders of our community of faith gathered at my house for a monastic meal—soup and bread—and as we sat around the table we began a conversation about where we are as a church, and where we see ourselves going in the future. Before Christmas we had asked members of our leadership to read a couple of books. The first was an older book by Diana Bulter Bass, Christianity of the Rest of Us. In the book, Diana invites her readers to join her on a “pilgrimage…to some old Protestant churches that have found new life in the face of change.” She has found what she called, “Ten Signposts of Renewal” which include: hospitality, discernment, healing, contemplation, testimony, diversity, justice, worship, reflection, and beauty.
The other books leadership were asked to read are by the incredible organizational thinker Margaret Wheatley. In her book, Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time, we were invited to begin conversations around some fundamental questions of leadership:
- How do leaders shift from control to order?
- What motivates people?
- How does change happen?
- How do we evoke people’s innate creativity?
- What are useful measurement systems?
- How do we solve complex problems?
- How do we create healthy communities?
- How do we lead when change is out of our control?
- How do we maintain our integrity and peace as leaders?
The conversation was amazing and it helped all of us to realize that these types of conversations should be engaged on many levels within our community of faith. This morning, in reflecting on some discussions I have had over the past couple of weeks with the people who work with Bill’s Place, Crosslines, and Ozark Food Harvest, I realized it may be time to have a conversation on how we can help hungry people in our city. While we are doing such a great job already, the needs are increasing and together we need to find answers to this growing need.
There are many of us at National Avenue who have a shared sense of purpose around this issue. A conversation about this topic might help us exchange and create information, it might help us to pay attention to the results of our efforts, and it might help us to coadapt, coevolve, and develop wisdom as we learn to work together.
The beginning of the New Year is a wonderful time for us to stop and ask ourselves individually, and as a community of faith, a few questions: Where do we find ourselves on our map? What are we giving our attention to? Are we looking in directions that enable us to see possible paths? Is there a turn we need to take in our map? And where might we begin and who can help?
As I reflected on the evening, I realized how grateful I am to be in the company of wise travelers as we begin finding our way together . . .
Links for books: