Starting something new is hard. It can be easier if it's a brand new project or endeavor with no previous incarnations or expectations (like this blog, for instance). But when we're talking about starting something new in an established church congregation - one that's been around 190 years! - in a place where things have been going along pretty okay (maybe not great all the time, but nothing horrible) and where traditions and habits are well-established, well that’s a whole ‘nother thing as they say.
But that’s what’s happening here! Last Sunday, 335 adults packed our Fellowship Hall, ate boxed lunches, and stayed for over two and a half hours to be part of our first steps on a brand new journey together. There were CAYAns and folks from the traditional service. There were young adults and senior citizens. There were life-long members and folks who just started coming to Decatur First a few months ago. We had 2/3 of our regular worshipping congregation there and it was electric!
You don’t think of a two and a half hour meeting as being full of energy, but this one was, as folks listened to three different presentations of possible future scenarios for our church. These scenarios had grown out of suggestions and insights from the conversations and prayers of 75 triplet groups that had been meeting earlier this year. Those ideas were then crafted by three writing teams into live and written presentations of what Decatur First might look like in 2025 (you can read the written reports here).
All three of the presentations were excellent – with compelling visions and inspiring ideas – and there was great conversation afterward as people responded to the presentations and voiced their thoughts about where they felt God was leading us as a church. At the end, we collected over 240 response sheets where people not only indicated which scenario they felt God was calling us to, but also which aspects and ideas of the other scenarios they wanted to make sure were included in the future story of our church.
The results were clear – our congregation chose the second scenario, Decatur First Missional, as the guiding framework for our future together. We feel that God is calling us to use the gifts and talents of our entire congregation to grow in relationship with one another and with our community, bringing the love of God into Decatur and the world beyond.
Throughout the presentations and people’s responses, certain themes surfaced over and over: building relationships, both within and beyond our church’s walls; being an open and inclusive congregation; connecting with our Decatur context. We are a people called to share God’s love!
Of course, this isn’t exactly new. These are things that we work on and talk about all the time. What is new is HOW we go about living into God’s vision. We are going to be starting a new way of doing church! What will it look like? Well, that’s the next step. We have put together a writing team that includes members from all three scenario groups to craft a vision and future story for our congregation. On Sunday October 18, they will present it in a special service with our whole congregation worshiping together.
This process has already been amazing and inspiring, and I am so grateful to everyone who has been a part of it so far. New ventures can be a little intimidating, but there is no other group of people I would rather be on this journey with!