Acting on a promise made at Diocesan Convention, last June four teams of clergy and lay leaders developed innovative experiments to help the diocese find new ways to do Jesus’ work in a rapidly changing world. The Going Local guiding team for St. Andrew's, Harrington Park was so intrigued by one of these experiments – using portable “Dream Boards” at churches and public places to enable people to post their dreams, hopes and visions for their congregation and their community – that they decided to try it. Going Local guiding team member Barbara Djimopoulos reports on what they’ve done so far and, more importantly, and what they’ve learned.
I am a member of the Going Local Guiding Team for St. Andrew’s Church in Harrington Park, NJ. St. Andrew’s was one of the churches in the first group recruited by the Diocese to participate in the Going Local journey.
Throughout the process we have been asked to perform tasks – Dwelling in the Word, interviewing people, walking the neighborhood. We have been asked to assess our experiences. We have been challenged with questions.
- How would it be to receive rather than give?
- How do you go beyond interviewing people and walking the neighborhood to actually connecting with the people in your neighborhood?
- How do you go beyond – and take a risk?
The purpose of these questions was to design an experiment that met the criteria put forward by these and other questions.
For us at St. Andrew’s the answer came from an opportunity. There was going to be a Harrington Park Day at a park in town. We had had conversations with town leadership, but how could our church participate in the town day, and involve members of the congregation in the Going Local process for the first time with a display or activity that would meet the criteria that had been developed at one of our shared meetings? An idea put forward was a “Dream Board,” a place where people from Harrington Park could write and share their hopes and dreams for the community. After we as a congregation shared our dreams with each other, a committee was selected to put our display together, the Dream Board with scrolling paper to allow for as many as possible who wanted to comment; a display table with information about St. Andrew’s. Arrangements were made for an artist to do temporary tattoos for kids, and members of St. Andrew’s to welcome and engage the community.
The Mayor was enthusiastic about the project and wants to put the Dream Board on display at the Library. The Department of Public Works asked to hear about any comment that might be useful in their work.
The day was a success. We have a roll of paper with comments from the community, and we are finding more opportunities to bring out the Dream Board for more comments. For example, on October 16 the community Crop Walk ended at St. Andrew’s and we had the Dream Board available for the participants as they freshened up after their run/walk.
We are discussing “Where can we go from here with what we’ve already accomplished?” Stay tuned; we don’t know the answer yet.
On October 1st, St. Andrew’s and other churches that have been in this process for a while came together at Episcopal House to discuss our experiments and what we learned from them and consider how to move forward. In addition to the original Dwelling in the Word (Luke 10:1-12), we now have two other significant passages, Acts 16: 6-15, and Joshua 3:1-11,17 (which we heard at the Listening Tables). It’s not that the Luke 10 passage about Jesus sending out the 70 is no longer relevant but Joshua and the Israelites standing at the edge of the Jordan, their last obstacle to gaining the Promised Land and the Acts passage with Paul having a dream to come to Macedonia, speaks directly to the next stage of the journey. It’s about heeding the call of the Lord whether we’re standing in front of an obstacle to a goal, or hearing a message in a dream – either one we have when we’re asleep or one we have when we’re awake.
Dwelling in the Word, the biblical foundation of the Going Local process invites us to enter into a very different kind of relationship with God, one that is closer to the understanding of our spiritual forebears of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Acting in faith, the basis of answering the call of the Lord, is essential to the success of our journey. All along, in doing the various tasks in the Going Local process, we were acting in faith even when we were a little skeptical about where this all was going. As we’ve moved from our general first steps as prescribed for us to steps we’ve taken as a result of our own work and deliberations, we’ve increased our appreciation and dedication to acting in faith. It means we don’t have to have all the answers to move forward. It means that we don’t have to be perfect to move forward. There is never a failure, there is just the question: What have we learned? What can we do differently? Our spirits are high and we’re eager for the work.
For the congregations considering joining our movement, my advice is to trust the process, you won’t be disappointed.