As part of my continuing education, I will be traveling this month to Mo-Ranch Presbyterian Conference Center outside of San Antonio, Texas. I was selected to participate in CREDO (pronounced cray-do). CREDO is a program sponsored by the Board of Pensions of our denomination for pastors between the ages of 40 and 55, and from its website, its purpose is “to provide opportunities for clergy to examine significant areas of their lives and to discern prayerfully the future direction of their vocation as they respond to God’s call in a lifelong process of practice and transformation.” In Latin, CREDO can be translated to mean “I believe.” But its deeper meaning is “I give my heart.” At that deeper level, participation in a CREDO conference becomes a work of the mind, heart, and spirit.
The conference provides time for clergy to step back from the non-stop pace of ordained ministry. CREDO provides a foundation for participants to embrace wellness and to prayerfully discern the direction of their personal and professional lives. It addresses, individually and in community, the questions of “Who am I?” and “Who is God calling me to be?” After 12 years of ordained ministry, I am looking forward to this experience. I would ask that you keep me in prayer during this time as I seek ways to know myself better, grow in my relationship with God and renew my call as a pastor.
This opportunity to participate in CREDO parallels the journey we are on right now in our church. We too need time each year to discern the direction of our ministry. How are we Living Our Vision? How are we connecting to God, one another and the world? Where do we need to grow in that vision? What gaps are there in our ministry? What should we try to grow next? Our actions show what “we believe” all the time in our ministry, from the presence of our building to the ministry that goes on it to the ways we go out into the world to share God’s love. Each piece of who we are and what we do reveals the deeper meaning of our faith, “I give my heart.” We have given our heart to be God’s people and trusted God’s Way of being and living in this world. Our time of stewardship is an opportunity to step back and reflect on who we are and where God is calling us go in our ministry so that each step we take will be faithful to God’s plan for us. I hope you are praying for us in this time of discernment.
Included in this edition of The Disciple is the brochure we have been discussing in our Stewardship Connection Groups. The brochure begins by articulating the values we seek to have as a church, and continues with Pathways to Our Vision, the section that paints in broad strokes how we will live those values. What it does not do is give specifics. That is the task of our day-to-day, week-by-week life together, to live along the pathways set before us. We live along those pathways when we worship together, join in fellowship activities, support our current outreach, provide a strong church school and Adult Forum, for example.
We also live along those pathways when we reflect on the ways we are not yet living our vision and then set about doing something to grow. That is the third page, steps toward our vision with new intention. The steps our Session has endorsed and we are discussing in the Connections Groups is how we can grow our ministry to youth and young adults and broaden our pastoral support to existing ministries. The position of Parish Associate gives the Session the authority to hire a part-time person to help us take those steps while also providing a way for the Session to evaluate the position on an annual basis to determine if it is the right position for our ministry.
The pie graph on the back of the brochure includes the current commitments ($419,000), the other sources of income (different colors), the “shrinkage” (a planned-for loss in committed giving because of death, moving away, etc.) that goes away as we fulfill our commitments, and two pieces of the pie (pulled out) that represent the growth needed in our giving to continue the normal operations of our ministry and add the new position.
For now, the goal is to engage in conversation with as many of you as possible about what the brochure is saying and what it is not saying. The groups are an opportunity to reflect on what we have said we want for our church and the necessary steps to live into it. The hope through our Connection Groups is that we will gain clarity about our direction for 2013 and beyond through conversation with one another. By the time this newsletter comes out, I will have participated in eight group discussions with more to come on weeknights and Sunday mornings. I hope you will sign up for one of the group meetings and join the conversation. If those dates don’t work, then please let us know that so that we can include you in the dialogue. Living Our Vision includes us all, not only in what we are already doing but in what we are called to do next.
Please join in prayer during this time of discernment, both for me and the trip I will be taking, and for us and the journey we are on together to live faithfully into the vision God has for us. Thank you to our Connection Group hosts for opening up your homes and for the conversations that have happen so far. And, thank you for the ways we are Living Our Vision already and for the courage and faith to take steps to live into that vision in new ways.