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  • The Rev. Arianne Rice

Values that Lead to Vision

Last Friday night the Vestry gathered for dinner at the home of Nancy and Snowden Stanley for the start of our annual retreat. The summer night was warm and so was the hospitality as we all got to know each other a little bit more. It always amazes me how this leadership team is “made new” every year, continuing ongoing work and adding to it with new insights, ideas and enthusiasm.

This year our retreat was facilitated by Linda Buskirk of Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF). Our Vestry is partnering with ECF this year to engage the work of articulating our mission and direction for the next one to three years. All organizations, including church, need to continuously and strategically define their purpose. As a church we ask – who are we as a Body of Christ, today? How is God calling us to live into and expand that understanding in the years ahead? What do we need to do to get there?

To know who you are and where you are going you remember, just like we do every Sunday at the Eucharist, the story of before. It isn’t always linear but every individual and every community is a part of an ongoing story. This is how we know the revelation of God through Jesus Christ. We tell the Christian story of God’s engagement with creation, with God’s people. We listen to Jesus tell stories to help us understand how it is that “God is love” and what it means to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” When we tell people about our church we tell the stories about what we do and how our lives have been impacted and transformed because of what we do, together.

Vestry Retreat at ICJS

Each of us brought to dinner an object that represents why we love Good Shepherd. There were church directories, choir folders, clergy stoles, pictures, books and crosses. All were sacred symbols sharing a personal story of why Good Shepherd matters in our lives and what events marked new beginnings or a deeper relationship to our faith community.

On Saturday, we continued the exercise by mapping our story on a timeline. Across two tables we unfurled one continuous ream of parchment paper and added our individual “start date” and the events during our time here where we experienced a compassionate community making a difference.

This is just the beginning of our discernment and visioning work as a congregation. Our vestry members will be leading all of us in this exercise in September and October. We hope, pray and encourage all members of our congregation to add their story to our story. Soon (and very soon, as the hymn goes!) our timeline will be unfurled in our hallway as you make your way into church. Everyone will be invited to draw a picture or add a photo of when your journey connected with Good Shepherd and what event made you see our community as a compassionate place that cares about making a difference in our world. And in conversations over coffee and perhaps a pot-luck or two we will share and listen to the stories of who we have been, who we are and who we are called to be.

One theologian writes that "faith is created through the Spirit via the narrative of God's gracious dealings with humanity." Before us is an exciting time of deepening our faith by engaging that narrative in our small corner of God's creation so we can hear and see God's gracious callings for The Church of the Good Shepherd in the months and years to come.

In Peace, Arianne+

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