Putting Vision into Action: The Congregational Church of Tryon, 2017
March 30, 2017
Last weekend was a busy, exciting one at the church!
Two of our members, a mother and daughter, were disappointed in not being able to be part of something exciting happening here at home: a visioning session about the future identity, mission and ministry of The Congregational Church here in Tryon.
But they couldn’t come to the session on Saturday because they were doing other worthy work: They participated in this year’s Southern Association Creation Justice Summit, held at Parkway UCC in Winston-Salem, sponsored by the SoCo’s Creation Justice Network, attended by 92 people.
This is emblematic of this congregation I’m privileged to serve in as Interim Minister: Very active doing good works in the community, a congregation that loves being together, eating meals and having fun and learning together, and one which is among the most open, inclusive, and loving in an area of western NC where Christians are often seen as narrow-minded, mean, and sanctimonious.
I must admit, though, I was getting anxious about whether we would ever get to this part of the vital interim-year work at this church—there’s been so much to do, so many changes over the course of the last nine months: staff turnover, the senior minister search committee’s work, and ramping up stewardship giving, along with the developmental tasks every organization must deal with between long-term leaders: coming to terms with its history, managing lay leadership shifts, strengthening denominational ties, discerning a new identity, and preparing for new leadership and a new future.
The time has flown by!
But this congregation displayed obvious enthusiasm for seeking and embracing a new vision for the future. To give you some context: Our typical Sunday attendance hovers between 80 and 100 people, so imagine my excitement when 30 people showed up on a beautiful Saturday morning in early spring—to engage with each other and an outside facilitator (to whom I happen to be married) for three hours, and identify who it is and where God wants it to go!
A member and I are still processing the raw information, which is displayed on the original flipchart paper in our Fellowship Hall—but folks coalesced around some pretty crucial areas:
Planning with children and families in mind – In an area with a large retiree population, this church wants to grow younger, in order to be truly intergenerational!Some ideas are to plan everything with all ages in mind, plan alternative services that include or center on children, and reach out and factor in transportation in order to get all ages here for events and activities.
Shine light on two areas: the feminine power present in this congregation is a strength, not something to lament; the many community activities the church is engaged in;
Understanding that buzzword, “intersectionality” – That as a people, we’re not simply a bunch of caucuses or interest groups, but our concerns are all related; in short, they INTERSECT with one another, and progress for one or two concerns means progress for all, IF we discover where they intersect!
There’s a lot more to do—but one thing Linda Kopecky, our facilitator, thought was particularly hopeful was the level of engagement in the process all morning, by a group of people who clearly enjoy one another’s company and had a great deal of FUN with something (planning) that often becomes too dry and boring.
I’m so happy for the congregation to make progress on this front! It gives me hope for the future, as the church enters its next chapter with a new settled minister!