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.
Updated: Aug 18, 2022
Over the past few years, like many others, I have become convinced that the United States is moving toward increasing polarization and violence. There is a wealth of political science research that confirms this observation. For those of us who cherish democracy, seek the well-being (human security) of all, and seek peace and reconciliation—what can be done?
I believe that an important movement that must be born and distributed across the country is as follows. We need to engage in some of the same peacebuilding and conflict transformation processes that are used around the world in conflict zones and “post-conflict” zones by professional peacebuilders. How is peace built in Northern Ireland, The Congo, the Balkans, and elsewhere? One of the techniques is the use of small encounter groups where people in conflict come together, typically guided by a trained facilitator, to discuss what they hold in common and what differences set them into conflict. The conversations build understanding, empathy, compassion, trust, and reconciliation.
As Christians, we recognize this is one way to meet the call we are all given to be God’s agents of peace and reconciliation (e.g., 2 Corinthians 5.14-24; Matthew 5.9;38-48). I am calling the workshop training sessions that I am here suggesting, “Healing Conversations.” I organized the first set of them that were conducted at the end of March at Utah Valley University. Then, I was joined by a group of professional facilitators from the across the US and Northern Ireland, as we each facilitated a model session and offered a training workshop. I am now beginning the work of building a national network of facilitators, so that we will soon offer these encounter groups, or Healing Conversations by the hundreds or thousands, coast to coast. I am working with Peace and Conflict Studies programs in colleges and universities, and other institutions, for example, the US Institute of Peace.
This is an invitation. If you might be interested in participating in a workshop training session that I will conduct later this summer, or early fall, please send me an email and let me know. Also, please let me know which Saturdays you are available for one workshop of five to six hours on a Saturday, starting July 30—September 10.
The RFC Board has endorsed this project. I will be offering the training sessions as a ministry of Riverfront, and we will promote it as such. After participating in the workshop I will lead, we can move forward and organize a set of Healing Conversations where people in suspicion, fear, and anger with one another—across the cultural and political divides in our country—can meet in these small groups, not only as I facilitate them, but you too, might become a facilitator.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Grace and peace,
This is a fascinating article from today's New York Times. The big idea of the article focuses on research that shows that "relationships between rich and poor" are a critical catalyst for reducing gnerational poverty.
The effect was profound. The study found that if poor children grew up in neighborhoods where 70 percent of their friends were wealthy — the typical rate of friendship for higher-income children — it would increase their future incomes by 20 percent, on average.
These cross-class friendships — what the researchers called economic connectedness — had a stronger impact than school quality, family structure, job availability or a community’s racial composition. The people you know, the study suggests, open up opportunities, and the growing class divide in the United States closes them off.
I think this is a really interesting hypothesis and one that resonates on many levels. Within the long Christian tradition of seeking after and working for justice, there is an interwoven narrative of relationships and kinship. This study seems to affirm that idea.
This has profound implications for those of us commited to justice and fighting poverty. If relationships can be a catalyst for change, how do we go about building those authentic relationships?
I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas...