Hello Vineyard Central brothers and sisters,
We’re on the brink here of the third movement of our Discernment time: Pentecost and following. We’ve had an eye on this time since we began the Discernment period. In a number of ways, as we’ve communicated before, the seasons of Lent and Easter served as preparation over a longer term for the specific conversations we will be having in the season of Pentecost.
We have met weekly, and engaged in rhythms of song, prayer, listening, and Sabbath rest together in our Sunday gatherings.
We have eaten together, sharing a common table that has deepened our conversations with one another and begun to be a space for interaction with others in our neighborhood.
In the season of Lent, we practiced the spiritual disciplines of lament and relinquishment; of at least beginning to sort through the way we feel about VC, about our personal lives and stories as a part of VC’s story.
In the season of Easter, we practiced the spiritual disciplines of proclaiming hope, of seeking to speak out a variety of hopes; hopes that we feel have been dead, hopes of healthy aspects of our community we desire to continue, and hopes that we can organize around a meaningful sense of unity together
As we stated earlier in this process and continually throughout, the weekly commitment to being with one another is not something we take for granted. It has had a leavening effect on us (we hope), opening up space in our relationships where tension and mistrust may have had a negative effect if we had intense conversations right off the bat. Those who have faithfully gathered in this season so far are now more prepared to speak with more courage, to hear with more depth, and to pray with more desperation. If you are reading this, and you have not participated in the process so far, waiting for the conversation time when we finally “talked about what mattered,” you are encouraged to (and will be reminded to) commit to a disciplined period of silence and listening in the larger public forms of our conversation for a period of several weeks as you engage with a process that has been going for a long time now.
We must not take the gift of gathering together for granted, and need to protect the process and God’s work among those who have gathered.
Over the next two (or three) weeks, depending on how the conversation progresses, we will begin our conversation with the opportunity to
1) Offer very concrete, very specific affirmations of where we see health in Vineyard Central, and
2) Offer very concrete, very specific sharing of where our community is compromised, is dysfunctional
In response to these two things, your response might be: “But I thought we addressed these issues in Lent and Easter?” We did, to a degree, but we spoke in broader contours, in more general statements as we tried to embrace the process. The next several Sundays, we’re encouraging one another to be systematically, rigorously specific with our thoughts. This is no hoping for what could be, or general lament for what has not been. It is a commitment to specifically affirm specific aspects we see as healthy in the present, and it is a commitment to specifically state specific dysfunctions or sickness we observe in the present. Do you hear the word specific? 🙂
The seasons of Lent and Easter served as opportunities to deal with these issues in a more general, broad categories kind of way. The season of Pentecost offers us the challenge now to be courageous, to be truthful, to be transparent, to deal with what is without hemming and hawing around. Because if our community is compromised, and if we desire healing and hope, we cannot afford to fail to deal clearly with what is.
We cannot afford to maintain where we are at right now.
So, we hear the words of God proclaimed to us as God proclaimed them to Joshua when he was faced with the giant task of following Moses as the leader of Israel. He felt inadequate, afraid, struggling to hope and trust. God said,
“Be strong and very courageous… Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”