By Rev. Warren Williams
2013 is turning into a pivotal year for the FaithWorks partnership. We began the year with each FaithWorks congregation exploring what was central to their particular congregation so that the essence of each congregation could be communicated to the full partnership by way of videos that were shown at our common FaithWorks Lenten Services.
Speaking of the Lenten Worship Journey, which moved us to each of the congregations for a meal, sharing and worship, there was general praise for the effort. The speakers and programs were great, the videos did provide a glimpse into the life of each congregation, and the food was great. It was wonderful to see the response. Our lowest attendance, at the far edge of a snowstorm was 125, and most often attendance stayed in the 200 range. Everyone agreed it was fun to be in a big group for Lenten worship.
What is more important is that by visiting each site, by sharing conversation with people not in our home congregations, and by seeing the great videos created for each congregation, we did grow to know each other better.
There have been several other things happening that are a bit more behind the scenes. First, the ELCA has assigned Dave Daubert, a church renewal guru, to help us on our FaithWorks journey. Dave has met with the FaithWorks pastors to advise and consult and will continue to walk with us on our journey. (Those who attended the FaithWorks retreat last fall may remember Dave.) The ELCA also sent Patricia Dever, a building consultant with the Mission Investment Fund of the ELCA to walk through our buildings, and explore with us some of our facility strengths and weaknesses. Pastor Warren Williams from Atonement completed an asset mapping project, exploring the strengths and weaknesses of each congregation and seeking to find opportunities for new mission that can be undertaken by the partnership. Several of the FaithWorks pastors have also been exploring other partnerships around the country, which seem to be undertaking similar missional rebirth. In some ways they are ahead of us, in others behind, but we seek to find what has given them life and where they had missteps that we might avoid.
So where do we go from here? The next step in our journey of discovery is to discern the future of FaithWorks and how each congregation fits into the partnership. This spring, each congregation is charged with creating a comprehensive plan for the full partnership. The anticipation is that these plans will call for substantial missional change for each congregation, capitalizing on each congregation’s strengths and focusing those strengths on our common mission. The biggest question each congregation is asked to prayerfully answer is “What is God calling our partnership to do to participate more fully in God’s mission in Racine and beyond?”
At the same time those plans are being created we are completing an application for a grant to help fund FaithWorks. The ELCA has noticed us! Partnership seems to be one of the “new wineskins” that God is creating in the church to bless the world with God’s love and justice. FaithWorks appears to be a leader in this new way of being. In fact, the ELCA has created a new partnership grant, to some degree or another, for us. We need to have a strong application to fully take advantage of this opportunity.
This summer, the FaithWorks Mission Council will appoint a team of people to consider each of the congregations’ plans for mission together and from those plans form a common vision and action plan to move FaithWorks to be the profound partnership that God has called us to be. That plan should be completed by late summer. At that point it will be communicated to each congregation and our members in a variety of ways. Each congregation will then be asked to ratify that plan – likely creating a new reality for each of us – in the fall and beyond.
Each congregation is to be praised for a spirit willing to journey into the unknown seeking first and finally to follow where our Lord leads.