The Shape of the Church is Changing

I alluded in last Sunday’s sermon to the fact that Brandon and I had been away at clergy conference.  Bishop Doyle challenged all the clergy of the Diocese of Texas to engage our congregations in the formation of missional communities—expressions of prayer, service, study and discipleship that take place outside Sunday mornings and our worship spaces.  The purpose is to connect us with our neighbors.  You may read the letter he wrote to the clergy here.

We are facing major shifts in our culture which are captured in the most recent study of religion in the United States.  You may read the study here.

I am inviting communicants at St. Stephen’s to join me and the Vestry in discerning the direction of missional community  through our parish.  We began last Saturday with our Worship Committee through a retreat-like workshop.  I will be offering the same opportunity at the parish weekend away at Camp Allen.  I also invite the congregation to participate November 9, following the 10:30 a.m. Eucharist.  This two hour session will be a repeat of these other events.  Lunch will be provided in Pecore Hall.

These opportunities are designed to give the whole congregation a chance to reflect prayerfully on our common calling, to move beyond our individual preferences, and to explore where God is sending us.

The workshop is a first step in the process.  Everyone is invited.  Later I will be putting together a mission discernment task group.  This group will engage in deliberate prayer, reading, research, and reflection to recommend to the Vestry the direction we see see Christ breaking into our neighborhood.  My hope is that some portion of this discernment group will commitment to being part of the missional community and that the invitation to connect in mission will be extended to the entire congregation.

The old language for this is that the congregation that gathers on Sundays at W. Alabama and Woodhead would serve as the ‘mother church’ for new daughters.  The newer version of this anticipates that we are not so much focused on creating additional buildings and programs, but that the Church takes on new flesh and blood in the places that God is already at work.

I hope you will participate and if not, then pray.  This is important work.