Saturday, July 10, 2010

Common/Shared Ministry at Grace Church as of July 10, 2010

This summary was shared at a Diocesan Common Ministry meeting at Procter Conference Center on July 10, 2010.

“Almighty God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with us at Grace Church as we seek a new way of being, Common Ministry. We feel anxious about what this might look like. Look kindly upon us as we discern this new way. Guide us in your way, help us to discern your hope and purpose for us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”

(Grace Church’s Prayer for the Parish)

Grace Episcopal is a small mission church with an average Sunday attendance of about 35. We have been without a staff clergy person for the past year and rely on supply priests for Eucharistic celebration. We find that “common ministry” has been our norm for quite some time even though we did not attach a name to what we have been doing.

What is common ministry? Here are some of the definitions we have come across recently: priesthood of all believers; living out our baptismal vows; modeling the earliest expressions of the Church as displayed in the Acts of the Apostles; discerning and calling forth members of the body to perform all the ministries. For Grace Church, Common Ministry is Shared Ministry . . . everyone shares in the work of the Church.

From March through May, we had three Bible studies and four Workshops. The average attendance for each session was 12 to 15 people. We studied Ephesians 4:1-16 (one body, one Spirit . . . ), John 15:9-16 (As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you . . .), and 1 Corinthians 12:4-27 (varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit . .)

Our workshops were as follows:

“People Who Inspired Me” How other people in our lives helped us develop our values.

“Identifying Our Gifts” Other people listened to us share things we had done in our lives that we were proud of, and then they told us what gifts they thought we were showing through these actions.

“What Tugs at My Heart?” We shared our passions; things that were important to us in our lives.

“What’s Grace Church to You?” What brought you to Grace Church and what made you stay?

We feel that one of the greatest benefits of these Bible studies and workshops has been the development of greater self awareness among the participants and a strengthening of the bonds of community. Our gifts discernment activities during the workshops inspired one of our committee members to develop a gifts inventory which has been distributed to the entire congregation. We are presently processing the results.

Another interesting insight that arose out of this process was the question of what community/communities Grace serves. Is it a geographical community or one that is served because of the passions that we have to help a certain segment of society? We hope these questions will be answered in the future.

There are many examples of common/shared ministry at Grace. The church office is being run completely by a volunteer staff. People are pitching in to get a Sunday bulletin out each week; this is a tremendous effort by the people who are doing it. Lay people are taking leadership in Morning Prayer services and/or healing services which we conduct on Sundays when we are not having Eucharist. We have an exciting healing service on the second Wednesday of each month that is run by lay leaders. We have two licensed preachers in our congregation who are willing to present thoughtful sermons frequently. Everyone gives and receives.

Our hope is that common/shared ministry can be a corrective to how many in our culture and church view what it means to “go to church.” For many, the chaplaincy model prevails. In that model, the church is run and staffed by paid professionals who “do ministry” while the members of the church are the clientele. Churches are seen by some as entertainment or art centers. The heart of common/shared ministry is to offer a vision of church life and worship where everyone participates and the gifts of each person are validated and empowered. It is the ancient vision of the church as being the Body of Christ. This is the direction in which we want Grace Church to be traveling.

Respectfully submitted,

Grace Church Common Ministry Committee (Carol Lyon, Ken Lyon, Wanda Miller, Roger Perna, Hawley Todd) July 10, 2010

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