Monday, March 7, 2016

Lessons learned...travel lightly into the neighborhood




This blog is an ongoing series about the lessons that I am learning in The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. To start from the beginning, read my first post.


Lesson #2: Travel lightly into the neighborhood

Morning Prayer at Sunflower Cafe, Charleston
When Jesus sent out the seventy in Luke 10 he wasn't telling them to go to church on Sunday, just talk to each other, and go on their way. He was sending them out into the world to travel lightly and rely on the hospitality of strangers. Bishop Andy Doyle of Texas reminded me of this twice recently at the Forma conference in Philadelphia and a Virginia Theological Seminary Dinner in Charleston. He said "We have convinced ourselves that doing liturgy for one hour on Sunday morning is mission. That's our sin." (paraphrased from my notes).


My husband and daughter at the park shelter for a picnic.
Traveling lightly was easy for us. We can pack everything our church owns in the back of my minivan. We set up our altar each Sunday, roll out a cart with our prayer books and hymnals, and prepare to welcome those in our community.


But we do more than that. We don't just wait for them to come. In not having a place to call our own at the beginning, the neighborhood truly became our church. We did morning prayer in a local breakfast restaurant, "staff" meetings happened at the local coffee shop, and coffee hour was at the local park shelter. We also made it our first priority to do outreach in the community. Each budget we have developed has started with 10% for outreach and then we have figured the rest out. We do a food drive the first Sunday of the month for a local food pantry at a low-income apartment complex, we have adopted a class in a under-performing school, we collect new, clean socks for a women's shelter on Maundy Thursday, etc.... I won't bore you with the whole list but there is a lot of good you can do when you get into the community and find out what they need.
My son and dog at one of our Blessing of the Pets

Our most successful endeavor was our Blessing of the Pets. We do it at the same park where we did coffee hour at the beginning. It has a dog park, playgrounds, and soccer fields. Exactly where you will find the average family on a Saturday in the fall. We need to stop sitting in our churches and wondering why people aren't finding us. It isn't that they aren't interested in the message we share. People want to make a difference in the world. We need to show them that our churches are a place that they can be a part of that. 

I am not saying that we have found all the answers and haven't run into our own problems along the way but we are traveling lightly and learning as we go.



8 comments:

  1. Andrea, Thanks for this new blog. People out there in cyberspace need to know the Episcopal Church is alive and well in South Carolina through good people like you. I hope you enjoy blogging as much as I have. Best wishes, Ron Caldwell

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  2. The importance of 'mission' for a Diocese, local church, or family/individual is easy to determine: just ask what % of your income goes to 'mission.'

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    1. I have been thinking a lot about this. We do see the % which is high for our congregation since we don't have to worry about a leaky roof but you also have the time and energy that is put towards mission that is harder to quantify. Sometimes it is easier to throw money at a problem than get your hands dirty.

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