Welcome to Forward Chats!
Building a Future for Our Beloved Church
You are all warmly invited to participate in a new, informal series of congregational conversations Sundays from 10:45 am - 11:45 am
After the meeting with Wendy Vanderhart on March 24, a dozen or so people continued to chat in the sanctuary for almost two hours. Based on this conversation, we decided to inaugurate a new series of meetings to talk – to chat -about what it means to be a church, what it means to be a Christian community, and how we can get better at it in the future. We want to be here 25 years from now, and we believe it is time for the congregation itself to take direct responsibility for the future of our beloved church.. We will begin this work immediately, gathering in the parlor with our coffee on Sundays between 10:45 and 11:45. We plan to meet weekly at the same time. Everyone connected with this church and interested in building its future is very warmly encouraged to come. We believe in the Body of Christ, in which wisdom may come from any one of us and in which we are each responsible for contributing our best for the good of the whole. This is not a program initiated by Conference, Council, Deacons or any other official body of the church. It has bubbled up out of the congregation in our time of trouble. But the moderator, deacons and pastor are all aware of it and no one has raised any objections. Indeed, all the comments so far have been very supportive. We are calling it “Forward Chats” (kudos to Peggie Morris who came up with the name) because it embodies important concepts about this group: Chat is informal, it’s loosely structured and not about making binding decisions Chat is what ordinary people do, it’s not the official talk of an authorized group. No one told us to start this group. It bubbled up FROM the congregation and everybody has an equal voice. Forward means focusing on where we go next, on the future of this church. Forward means that when we do discuss the past, as we inevitably will, the point must not be merely to express the depth of our frustration or, worse, to assign blame, but to UNDERSTAND where our habits of communication and structures for decision-making led us down the wrong path, so that we can use that understanding to forge a different path for the future. Forward means being open to change, including changing old habits of interacting that have proven detrimental to the church’s well-being.
We will set guidelines for this group from the beginning, though they may change over time: Wendy Linares will open and close the meeting with prayer and possibly include a short exercise. After the prayer, we will read the covenant together (see below*).
There is no formal agenda, but we will prepare a few questions in advance to get the conversation started.
We will take notes and distribute them to the entire congregation afterward so that people can follow along if they are unable to attend some weeks. Weekly notes will be available here on our website.
The goal is to “build up the church” and all remarks offered should meet that standard. If the conversation veers into a mood of nonconstructive complaint or negativity, someone in the group will bring it back on course. We recognize this will take practice.
We want to begin in an exploratory mode and give ourselves time to dig deeply into the issues of being a community together rather than grasping at superficial mechanical fixes and thinking we’re done.
We want to connect broad Christian principles (like “love your neighbor,” and “get the beam out of your own eye”), with the moment-to-moment choices we make as members of this Christian community.
We want to learn to listen better and to feel less entrenched in our own point of view.
We want to open ourselves to the influence of the holy spirit and think about the good of the whole community.
We hope to make this group a tool to turn this moment of distress into an opportunity to become a better church. Please come. With love,
Members of Your Second Church Family *CHURCH COVENANT
We will be as honest as we can with each other.
We speak to each other with respect.
We will communicate directly to each other using the first person.
We will repeat what we hear in order to confirm that we have understood correctly and ask others to do the same.
We affirm the merit in another person’s idea before we note its weaknesses.
We will listen to understand, but don’t necessarily have to agree.
We will be responsible for the success of any direction we, as a congregation, decide to take.
We will keep God, Creator, Christ and Spirit, at the center of every conversation.
SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE (developed with Wendy Vanderhart Sunday, March 24, 2019)
Remember these are hard things to hear
Understand that constructive criticism is not always fun
Use “I” statements
Respect each other
Speak with good intentions
Imagine others' mindsets
Listen to others
Learn from the past
Work toward clarity
Pay attention to tone
Honor everyone’s value
Remember that we are all equal
Speak from the heart
Be open to others
Agree to disagree
Honor our differences
Do not make assumptions