Where do we go from here?There is a saying: “If you don’t know where you’re going, then any way will get you there.” The Vestry has resolved that this will not be true of Good Shepherd! We are presently involved in a year-long process to accomplish three things:
1. We hope to renew and replenish the sense of energy and excitement at Good Shepherd about the mission God has given to us. Our goal is to move to the early Prime stage of the Congregational Life Cycle. (See Part II.)
2. We hope to discern more particularly how God would have us be the church in Augusta, Georgia. (More later about our context in Augusta.)
3. We hope to become an effective and faithful parish for Jesus Christ in the early decades of the 21st century. (See Part I.)
The five All-Parish Gatherings that have been planned for this year are designed to work together to help us realize these hopes and aspirations for our parish. Again, they include:
Thin Places: Sharing our best experiences of God in this place
Context: Looking at Augusta, the place of our ministry
Asset Mapping: Identifying the gifts we want to offer to God
Everyday Creativity: Exploring the holy perspective God has given us
God in Our Lives: Discovering God’s purposes for Good Shepherd
Please note the active verbs that characterize this effort: sharing, looking, identifying, exploring, and discovering. The process depends, to some extent, upon as many of us doing these things together as is possible, hence the all-parish nature of these gatherings. Broad ownership is the key to renewing energy about out mission here!
Broad ownership, increasing stakeholders, is the key to energizing the mission and life of the parish. The more people feel that they are a part of, they have a stake in our efforts to make disciples of Jesus Christ, to serve others in the larger community and world in his Name, to care for, support and encourage fellow parishioners, to catechize our children and youth and to worship Almighty God both in our lives and in our liturgy, the greater will be the sense of excitement about God’s purposes in and through Good Shepherd.
Unlike much strategic planning, where a process is initiated and…presto!…out comes a plan 12-18 months later, this is a rolling process. By which we mean, we are actually getting to where we hope to get as we do the work together, rather than waiting for an outcome some months hence. This can prove a little confusing, even frustrating, when we would prefer “map quest”-like directions to our destination. We are reminded of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:1-16) where Jesus compared the uncontrollable movement of the Spirit to that of the wind: it blows where it chooses, which can be disconcerting enough for all of us!
Next we begin to consider individually, the five exercises that give form and structure to our discerning work.