discernment gatherings

A Visual Metaphor for the Parish Model

 

So what’s the deal with the carrot?

In conjunction with the written proposal (see the prior post on the web site), we wanted to present a picture or symbol through which we all can better understand and discover what it might look like to be a people of God committed to be a parish church with elements of an intentional community in West Norwood.

After giving it some long, hard consideration, the carrot came to us.

Maybe it had something to do with our neighborhood’s overwhelming interest in gardening. Or maybe we were influenced by the popular trend of modeling faith communities after produce (the onion and the apple are already taken). Perhaps it was divinely inspired. Whatever the source, we think it makes sense and helps to describe how the different pieces of our identity not only fit together but are completely reliant on one another for growth and stability.

Consider, for example, the way a carrot grows in the ground. The edible part of the carrot lies underground, hidden from view, but all the time absorbing nutrients and water as it pushes through the soil. The only visible portion is the green leafy stems, which reach up towards the sun, absorb light energy and convert it into essential food for the plant. Though very different in appearance and function, the root and the stems are connected at the core and cannot exist without the health and provision of one another.

Similarly, we are discerning that neither a traditional church model nor an intentional community model can in isolation fully accomplish the work God is calling us into in West Norwood. Instead, we envision a model centrally carried by a core fellowship of covenanted members who commit to the work of the church (through visible practices in the neighborhood). The leadership of VC comes from within this covenanted group with the task of exhorting, encouraging, and holding the membership accountable to practice the things we have said “Yes” to. Outer layers of the “carrot” represent persons in different relationships to our church.  As the layers move outwards, the amount of commitment, time, and energy devoted to our church lessens.  This is not to suggest “levels” of achievement, but rather clearly defined layers of involvement.  Clarity in this area will contribute to the church knowing where persons stand in relation to the church, and give persons a clear pathway to understanding what our community values and how to get involved.  We believe that by establishing a clear, healthy organizational structure (good boundaries, with plenty of space to breathe) and by assessing and affirming our individual and corporate giftings, these identities will begin to flourish, and our relationships with God, one another, and the people in our neighborhood will grow both deep and high, just like the carrot. 🙂

In the weeks ahead we hope to delve into more of the particulars of this model, including a closer look at the various “layers” of involvement with covenanted membership at the core (see cross section view of carrot in upper left) as well as possible “branches” of service -as inspired by the visions and missions of our core membership. Throughout these conversations we fully invite you all to share your thoughts and meditations on how the carrot fits. Of course there may be times when the analogy falls flat or we may need to rely on other pictures and metaphors to convey a certain idea. But for now, we like the carrot and hope you do too!

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