Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The retreat: renewing a commitment, rediscovering hope


So after church we gathered for our retreat. Led by Pat O. Members of Session and the Center Board. We met with anxiety, discouragement, frustrations, some mistrust, and in the end, hope.

Pat and Mim and I had worked very hard on the agenda. We also wanted to build on the work that had been done by the Session on Saturday. Mim brought us all sandwiches for lunch, typical of her graciousness. But she brought something more important.

She had volunteered to bring a flip chart tablet for our meeting. What she found was the results of our first retreat at least two years ago. When Pat saw what was on the chart, he said, Our work is done. What was both amazing and sad was how a propos the work we had done still was. We had known exactly what had needed to be done. The engagements with various white knights had led to the Center board sitting on the sideline waiting for us to figure out what we were going to do. Now it’s time to return to the original vision, of the Center being the vision that drives the building redevelopment project of the church.

Here is what Pat found on the flip charts:

Copy of strategy meeting
Sometime in 2011 or 12

First Page

Complementary but separate  (referring to church and Center)

Sharing Social Justice Concerns

The mission of the Center would include:
1. Arts and Culture
2. Social Transformation
3. Intergenerational Education
4. Spirituality (interfaith)
(Repeating these four has become our mantra)

Intentional Collaboration: we would look for all groups who wanted to rent or be part of the Center to be committed to intentional collaboration.

Second Page


- Controls (changed to “Manages” at 4/6/14 retreat) space
- Invites partners
- Coordinates
- Develops programming
- Raises funds (added “for Center” at 4/6/14 retreat)
    - Public
    - Foundations
    - Individuals
    - Others
    - Rentals

Third Page

Center (continued)

- Restoration (added “Interior” at 4/6/14 retreat) and maintenance of building
- Cultural heritage of community
- Participate in investments in improvements

Forth Page


Creative people
Community relationships
Commitments to collaborate
Openings to engagement
Shared values among group
Church’s diversity

Weakness / threats

No infrastructure
Lack of money
Too few people
Needs of Church development / stability
Missing skill set
Building in need of repair
Lack of diversity
Political challenges: City - Church

Fifth Page


UWS artistic wasteland (with many creative people)
Nexus for many constituencies
Artists need space like West Park
Create resource of dialogue for immediate community
Improve neighborhood values
Be integrative force
Forums for increased social justice

Sixth Page


Other institutions competition
Little capacity to deliver
Time is passing
Stabilization / vulnerability of Church (3-5 years)
Gradual development

Seventh Page


 - Decide how to program spaces
 - Work on infrastructure
 - Bring in money  feasibility
 - Build Board
 - Action plan
 - Clear definition of relationship

Reviewing these old pages provided  us with everything we needed to move our discussion forward. It was an open and frank discussion. Certainly the viability of the church is on the table. As is the pastor (that is me!) ‘s capacity to lead the congregation to rebirth. Serious doubts are raised. Including the ones I often wrestle with.

But what emerged at the end was a renewed sense of energy and hope. A willingness to put before the congregation a proposition for the church and center to work together for six months on a DIY project to see if we can produce sufficient income to continue moving forward. We were rediscovering our commitment to one anther. Small subgroups were created to move the agenda forward. What had begun as nearly despair had ended in hope. Now for the next step…..

Geoffrey had been asleep in the sanctuary throughout our meeting. I had to tell him it was time to go. I guess he was a silent witness.

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