Open & Affirming Discernment Team Report
Congregational Meeting presentation January 17, 2021
There were two paragraphs in the midweek emails about Open and Affirming, one in late August advertising for volunteers and one in late October announcing the team. Those two paragraphs in the midweek emails may be all that anyone has heard about the Open and Affirming Discernment effort. But that is about to change.
The team has been continually active during the meantime. Our primary assignment from the Church Board is to “help guide our congregation through the discernment process”. For the last three months, we have been in prayer and educating ourselves on the discernment process, on Open and Affirming, and on gender and sexuality.
What is the discernment process? The book "The Way of Discernment" by Elizabeth Liebert describes discernment as the traditional Christian practice of seeking God’s call in the midst of the decisions that mark one’s life. Discernment may be the single most important Christian spiritual practice for dealing with all the forces, options, and decisions that characterize modern life. Entering into discernment means becoming increasing able to notice where God is at work in the world and in one’s own life, and increasingly generous with one’s own life in response. A discerning person seeks, in all that she or he does, that which better responds to God’s call in the moment.
Prayer, especially listening for God’s call, is central to the discernment practice. One of our team’s prayers is to be guides worthy enough of this congregation.
The spirit of Graceful Engagement is used throughout every aspect of the discernment practice. The spirit of Graceful Engagement requires deep listening and treating each person as a beloved child of God. It is about listening, sharing one’s own story, hearing one another’s perspective, finding shared experiences, and building relationships.
In the next couple weeks, we will begin this Graceful Engagement with a mailing to everyone containing a letter of introduction and an anonymous survey. Please take the time to complete and return the survey to the church office or a team member. The survey will provide an interesting view of our congregation. There were a couple unexpected insights from just the team’s survey results. The compiled results of the surveys will be shared with the congregation.
Following the mailing, team members will begin scheduling one-on-one or small group conversations to pray and to discuss discernment, Open and Affirming, and the survey results. Our goal is to engage everyone in the congregation in the discernment practice and conversations. This task is obviously problematic and complicated by the Covid-19 warnings. We anticipate that most of these conversations can be held over the phone or on Zoom. We will also work with people that prefer to have in-person discussions. The conversations should and will be Covid-19 safe and comfortable for all participants.
Although there are roadmaps of other congregations’ Open and Affirming journeys, our conversations when completed, will determine the path and next steps in our congregation’s discernment journey. Please join with all of us to pray, to listen, to build relationships and community, to discern God’s call for our community, and most of all, to follow and live His call in our lives, everyday and everywhere and with everyone.
Linda Greaves Sandra Drage Dawn Briggs Pat Kukus
Brian Schuetz Daniel Gardner Frank Kauffman Craig Jump