To Alter Our World: Partnering with God to Rebirth Our Communities; Alan Frost, Christiana Rice
For the last 18 months, 40 congregations have been exploring together what it means to take up God's invitation to join in the mission of God in their communities. That journey has been different for each context. It involves laying foundations for a mindset change that encourages people to listen to God and, from that place of deep listening, to discern to what it is that God calls them at this time.
While there are many stories of encouragement that have emerged from the journey, as well as stories of caution and the pain of a journey from knowing to unknowing, there is little to show for the changes that have been wrought. Yet those changes have been foundational, wrought in the hearts and minds of those called to lead, with God, in rebirthing kingdom communities.
And so, as we seek to recruit some more ministers and congregations to embark on this journey of discovery, it is almost as difficult to articulate what it is we are inviting folks into as it was in the beginning. While, we can, perhaps, better explain what the desired outcomes might be, essentially, we are inviting people to go on a journey. It's a journey that will be new to some, one that some have been on for some time, and one that some will discover is not, in fact, the journey they thought they were making.
The Panel on Review and Reform's report to the General Assembly of 2016 that sought approval to embark on the Path of Renewal Pilot Project, identified some characteristics of Missional Churches: those who are: involved in local community & wider; engaged in authentic Christian community life & worship, open & relevant to all generations; and forming people in faith at all ages and stages of life.
But what the Pilot has taught us is that making the journey together, exploring as we go is important in the process of discovering what God reveals along the way. Recognising the God who walks alongside, sometimes playful, sometimes frustrating, sometimes clear and directive, sometimes baffling, but always just ahead and enabling us to catch up, displaying infinite patience while we do brings us into a new relationship with God, changes us as we seek, with God, to change our communities.
Perhaps it's the kind of journey on which the Woman at the Well embarked - a journey with Jesus that transformed not only her but her community too:
Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.