Over the past month, St. Stephen’s has been having lots of conversations about our prayer life and how we experience Christ breaking into our community to invite us into mission. Meeting with folks interested liturgy, participants at the Camp Allen parish retreat, and over lunch in Pecore Hall over 37 folks have shared their perceptions of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in our prayer life as a congregation and shared perceptions of where Christ may be breaking us open for new missional community forms.
While it may seem weird to think about doing a SWOT analysis of our life of prayer, no real ministry of the church can be faithful or fruitful without being grounded in prayer. The exercise yielded interesting results. There was much consensus on our strengths. Participants saw our strengths as the collaborative nature of our worship—roles are shared across ages and disciplines. There is a valuing of our tradition and a willingness to innovate. We are thoughtful about our prayer practice and engage intellectually as well as with emotion. We see ourselves as welcoming and we SING. We are inclusive and diverse in our spiritual life.
One of the shared weaknesses identified across groups was our being too homogeneous in terms of class, ethnic identity, language and age. A related weakness was that we can be smug and self-righteous. Some saw us as too nave oriented (the space where we worship) and afraid to experiment. Communication and organization were seen as weakness by many. The tying of service and prayer may not be robust enough, in the opinion of some.
Opportunities abound. Participants commented on how rapidly our church neighborhood is growing. We have chances to more fully engage on our online ministry. Our location is an asset enabling us to draw all kinds of groups to our campus—maker spaces, youth, artists, groups with shared interests. Because of our flexibility, we are able to try new things and fail.
The threats which were identified include the fact that many in the broader culture find the church to be irrelevant. Our facilities are aging. Our complacency can inhibit our willingness to risk. We may not be willing to listen to one another; the capacity for folks to make and sustain human connection is being strained. Change is happening very quickly both within and beyond the congregation and it may tax our ability to cope.
These are some of the findings. The vestry and staff will be using this feedback to develop our strategic vision in preparation for our master planning process in the new year. I will keep you posted!
Our Core Values:
We affirm individuality.
Each individual is a unique creation worthy of our respect and understanding.
We practice service.
Service to others within and beyond our communities is integral to our purpose.
We question everything.
Intellectual integrity results from questioning, learning from others, and finding God in all things.
We build relationships.
Through community lives are transformed by willingness to love others as we love ourselves.
Rooted in the Christian faith we embrace a sincere respect for other beliefs.
We cherish the future.
Acting responsibly we ensure a sustainable future for all creatures