Our congregation gathered for a church-wide meeting on February 26, 2023. For those who missed it or want to review what was discussed, here are my notes:
Dave Lathrop (Board Treasurer) shares a brief financial update. We have a deficit, not an emergency. Expenses are down about 25%, but income is also down about 25%. We've saved a significant amount by swapping out LiveControl.
Pastor Ben and Pastor Michael are optimistic about the future of Riverfront, but also realistic about the challenges we face. They see our members and regular attenders as a strong core group. They're also seeing tremendous growth in maturity.
Jessie B suggests partnering with the gay and lesbian chamber of commerce.
Diana S shares that there’s a real need for what she and Laura experienced, being able to be out in church.
Pastor Ben notes that we are a quadrant 4 church: affirming, contemporary worship style. That was Pastor Nancy’s heart from the beginning.
Jessie suggests sharing Diana’s testimony (and others) as a video that will resonate with others.
Deb M comes from a progressive and affirming but more liturgical style and not enough Jesus. That was the draw. She also shares that a lot of adoptive parents were/are here and that was part of how she found community.
Laura S asks if we’re networked with other churches outside Hartford area. Many people may be looking for something closer.
Ben mentions the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB) - also notes we can be a catalyst to create a network.
Kurt M adds that he’s having a hard time with the “COVID hangover.”
Jessie suggests having scheduled lunch or other social gatherings.
Deb says she encounters lots of progressive, spiritual people who don’t want to touch church with a 10-foot pole.
Rich G expresses interest in leaning into the “family” side of RFC. Also the COVID community conversation.
Michael M says we live in a society full of loneliness and hurt and alienation. We are a community of people who can welcome them with love and fellowship. Mentions he’s going to teach a Bible study on Mark.
Ben notes that because of our small size, things can just happen without a ton of bureaucracy.
Jessie suggests doing YouTube interviews or written testimonials. Deb offers to interview people.
Michael is excited about music. Very powerful, very healing.
Ben suggests using the Changing the Sheets podcast as a front door, as well as "checking in" on social media.
Diana says we need to focus on our greeting ministry - signs, physical presence here.
The process of conversation and discernment we have used this summer to take an inventory of where we are as a church, and where we want to go, who we are, and who we want to be—is not over!
We have been in a time of reflection and anticipation, waiting for Pastor Michael to join us. Now that he is one of our pastors and settling in, it is time to revisit the journey we’ve been on, as we have revisited our identity, purpose, mission, and vision.
Here, we restate the summary of our conversations, but we will also add some ideas about mission and leadership generated by our pastors and the board.
As a community, Riverfront Family Church
Values diversity and inclusivity of many kinds, from the differences of racial identity to theological and spiritual to neurodiversity.
Welcomes and embraces children and youth.
Commits to healing, wellbeing, and social justice.
Intends to be a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community.
Encourages engagement in deconstruction, seeking, and belief in whatever swirling and fluid combination they are at, at any given time.
Aspires to be a powerful force of ministry in the Hartford area.
Commits to anti-racism and building peace and reconciliation.
Engages the problematic [sic recommend change to ‘challenges”] of climate change.
Commits to helping others encounter Jesus and become more like him, that spiritual
growth and discipleship is integral to our purpose and Mission.
We are an “experiment” of sorts, and “quirky”! We affirm that we want to be available to one another, building up our church “bearing one another’s burdens” and caring for one another with love.
For the past several weeks, the board and our pastors have discussed a new model of leadership and ministry that we believe fits well with the vision summarized above. We did not “roll out” this model and language because we waited for Pastor Michael to join us and give his input.
The idea is that there will be six “Action Teams” (in our now tentative language) in the church, each with leadership from someone not on the board, and each with a board member who is a liaison to that Action Team. They are the:
Worship Action Team
Fellowship (about ministry to and with members of RFC) Action Team
Community Engagement (about ministry beyond RFC) Action Team
Spiritual Growth Action Team
Justice Action Team
Children and Youth Action Team
Realising that stewardship is critically important to all that we do, we have discussed the merits of a Stewardship Action Team or rather, making sure we keep focused on stewardship in all the Action Teams.
You will recall that early this summer you received a message about the possible adoption of a Purpose Statement or Mission Statement (noting that our church simply does not have one). This idea is still alive. We (your pastors and board) will suggest a Statement in the weeks ahead.
We will present a campaign and process of transition from these ideas and commitments to the embodiment of them. That is, as a church, we believe we are now ready to move from conversation and discernment about our identity, purpose, and mission, toward the structures that will incarnate our vision, fellowship, and ministry. All church members will have the explicit opportunity to volunteer for ministry in a number of different ways.
Please look for, and pray for, the beginning of this transition on Sunday, September 18. Please join us in a season of anticipation.