I thought I’d use the blog to acknowledge that I made a cut and paste and editing mistake in the version of what is known as the Lord’s Prayer I introduced yesterday. There was a line missing and I did not notice.
I now wish I had taken more time to prepare you for this version of the prayer. It was the outcome of some deep study I did on it at one time. I studied what Eugene Peterson, Andrew Kuyvenhoven and various Reformed scholars and the Heidelberg Catechism said about it and I gained deep appreciation for it. I learned, for instance, that it is to be considered a model prayer, an outline, not a full script for a prescribed prayer. In fact, in Matthew 6, Jesus warns against prescription prayers before sharing this outline. Jesus says, when asked how to pray by the disciples “Pray like this.” Not “Pray exactly this.” (See TLB Matt 6:7-13) The bible has two different editions of this story with differences in the prayer as well. (Luke 11 is the other one). As an outline, the prayer has structure. There are two main parts. In the first we are taught to take a stance of Looking up to God. In the second we declare our Dependence on God. The core of the prayer is 6 petition statements. The first 3 are what you might call “wishes” or “wants” that we have for God, God’s name, or reputation and action. The second 3 are wishes or wants we ask God to give or grant us. I’ll share just two other learnings that stood out. Jesus uses the word Abba where we usually have Father in English. But Abba is a more intimate term, more like “Daddy” or Papa. The last thing I’ll point out is that the closing words are not in any of the originals.
Here is the full edition of what I ended up with after that study:
Our Father (Daddy) in Heaven May your name be Holy May your kingdom come May your will be done On Earth as it is in Heaven Give us each day what you know we really need Give us the grace to forgive others as you have forgiven us Give us the strength to resist evil For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever, Amen
Initial Reflections on the history review by Pastor Pete
The reason I do this event is to begin to answer the first of the four main questions the STM process is structured around: Who has Christ Community Church been?
As we talked that day, I filtered and listened for significance of events, for emotion or ‘energy’ in the telling (be it positive or negative) and just other things that ‘grab’ me as likely important to the question. Where are the scars, where has God’s blessing been felt, things like that. Usually I process this information with a Transition Team and they formulate a report. There is going to be some loss of effectiveness due to that not being a viable option at CCC. If you want to take the time — before reading on for my interpretation — it could be a help if you wrote out some of what you heard about who CCC has been and shared it with me. What follows is what stood out for me.
We had a good Saturday morning together telling, hearing, and exploring some of the stories of the formation of Christ Community Church and events in her history. There were more people there than I expected, and participation was good. Of course people with more life experience (ahem) had more stories to tell… so we skewed appropriately to giving them time. One of my hopes for this time together was that it would be interesting for those who are more recently part of this congregation to hear these stories. If you were not there at the event, ask someone who was about what the drawings all represent and how they were organized. It would make this post excessively long to explain that here. What follows are the things that stand out for me in my memory and some comments sharing how I interpret them:
As shared in the meeting the forming of CCC was primarily driven by the desire of families with children to have a worship location closer to ‘home’ and even in their own community of St Albert and area. This was for convenience and better opportunity to engage/minister to a community. It had become challenging to get kids ready and get all the way over to North-East Edmonton for church activities. The reason for forming is, in my experience, important to be aware of to be looked back on as to whether it is applicable today still or not.
Reflection/explanation: One reason I ask for this info is that in my experience the motives or drive behind a congregation’s forming becomes a subconscious part of the “DNA” of a congregation. If the motive is negative – for example “we all didn’t like the worship style or the pastor of the Mother church” that is a negative motivating force that could be still negatively affecting progress for God’s glory. This sounds to me like a positive motivation. The challenging question that comes to mind is what has become of that DNA, of those goals? Very few members live anywhere near the church today, and some drive farther to get here than the formers drove to the mother church back in the day. Makes me say “Hmmmmm!” Causes me to ask: “What changed?” Very interesting. It would be interesting to set up a map in the lobby and have everyone put in a pin representing where their home is… Anyone want to volunteer to do that?
We heard about two seriously traumatic events in the history of CCC. One involved a son killing family members, and another a person in military service dying. These are the kind of thing that are huge shocks to a church community, especially the killing. Suddenly a congregation is faced with hard questions and new unpleasant insight into human brokenness and depravity. From the stories told at the gathering, this situation was dealt with appropriately, with grief counselling available and the like. I got no sense of either being an ongoing cause of pain that needs healing.
Two ‘mismatch’ pastors in the past
Two pastorates in CCC’s history did not work out so well. The specifics do not matter so much as the fact that this is your story. Both mismatches sounded to me like they were rooted in some theological and spiritual differences between the pastor and congregation, along with maybe some character or cultural issues. Another part of that story that I think I heard is that some pastors did not see their role as being a co-leader but a sole leader to be followed. Right there we have identified three things to pay particular attention to in the pastor search process! The more recent of these situations still had some ‘energy’ or ‘charge’ to it when it was discussed. That too is significant for me to have seen.
One highly regarded pastoral couple from the past
There was one pastorate that, when it came up, generated a chorus of positive comments and example stories tumbling forward. They tended toward acknowledging that this was a “pastoral couple” who took on the work as a team. That was followed by a list of initiatives started in the time of this couple’s tenure at CCC. I felt this as a very positive ‘wind’ or ‘rush’ in the story telling. I also know that teams like that are rare, so know that this was exceptional. Here again is something to note for the eventual calling process: discussion needs to happen around what role, if any, the spouse feels they will have in the ministry so that expectations can be set appropriately.
Initial, first reflection conclusions:
There are more things to note than I have written here. Reviewing the history sheet would bring more to mind. The above is simply what stood out for me. I am getting a clearer picture with each event and conversation I have. It is clear that the formative “DNA” of the origins of the congregation (and the DNA is what becomes invisible or normal to the members) was to form their own Reformed Church of America worshipping community closer to where most of them lived, and to connect with and minister to the community in which they lived.
Was that original idea or vision ever revisited and adapted to new situations?
Was there a time (maybe at the previous location) where the vision was active and alive? Or did it never really ‘take’?
Another question, mainly shaped by your pastoral history is:
Has CCC clarified what they actually expect of a pastor?
This was a very helpful event for me as your STM in getting more of an idea of who you have been. My own answer to the question “Who has CCC been?” is:
CCC is a congregation that once was young families and vigourous and originally dreamt of having her ‘own’ localized space in which to be church together and connect with her community. The generation that started out with that vision are now grandparents. Few of their offspring remain part of CCC. Along the way she has been a community of support for her members through hard tragedies and has toughed it out through two challenging pastorates and several more effective ones. Mis-matched pastorates seemed to have cross-cultural differences and theological/spiritual differences at their root. Each involved membership losses when they ended. Effective pastorates included factors like: an involved pastoral spouse, active community outreach, programs, and “pulling together” in several senses of the words. More recent pastorates involved good preaching “learn something every Sunday” and had deeper personal learning going on (Ridder). Attendance and participation numbers have been diminishing steadily for 10 years. Some South African familes came in the last 15 years. Filling leadership positions has become a challenge. The younger members are primarily involved in worship leading only, the older ones in other postions. Only one part of the original vision seems to have been fulfilled, namely that of being her own worshipping community closer to where her members live. Community connection and growth has had spurts of effectiveness, but has not been a sustained success. All who remain today have a clear sense something needs to change in order for CCC to flourish, but not much clarity on what that needs to be. Together we hope and pray that God will help us see a new future and find the courage to seek after it.
Comments on my observations are invited and welcome! Use the comment box below. Because there is a lot here, make sure you first mention what you are responding to.
The next “Town Hall” event is being planned for May 4th. It will focus on how you all generally feel about CCC today and the future.
You might have heard some consistory members jokingly saying things like “That’s such an Otter thing to do” or “A Beaver would ask that question.” I know something like that was said at least once at the History review Town Hall.
I thought I’d take some space here to fill in where that comes from. First, some other background information: As consistory we have gone to meeting twice a month. The second meeting is a church-business focused meeting, the first one is aimed more at personal self-and-other-and-God awareness growth, and what would usually be called Elders work such as prayer for situations and persons in need of prayer. I lead these meetings and use them as an oppurtunity for us as leaders to ‘team build’ and grow in our trust and undersanding of each other.
The first “Discipleship” meeting we had, one of the excercises we did was fill in a quick questionaire kinda thing that indicated preferred behaviours on our part. These were then compiled and the results gave us each an “animal personality” profile. The idea being that the character of a particular animal has strong similarities to our generally preferred pattern of behaviour.
The four animal types (for nerdy types this goes back through the Myers-Briggs to Carl Jung) are: Lion, Otter, Golden Retriever and Beaver.
If you think of each of these animals you should be able to get some idea right away as to their characteristics. What the Lion says goes, especially if said in a roaring manner. The Otter is curious and always playfully active, The Golden Retriever just wants to fetch, and wants to know what to fetch. The Beaver knows exactly which stick goes where in the project.
Each type has strengths to it and weaknesses. The Beaver type is accurate, diligent, detail oriented, but can be hard on themselves and others with their expectations and may take too long to make decisions as they are ‘gathering facts.’ The Golden Retriever is loyal, patient, easy to get along with, a great team player, but may be over-accomodating, may sacrifice good results to keep harmony, and be indecisive. The Otter type is enthusiastic, communicates well, full of big ideas, playful and funloving, but is not detail oriented, sometimes not realistic or even reasonable. And the Lion is decisive, goal oriented, takes initiative and is a natural leader, but is also often a poor listener, is too blunt for others, sees progress as more important than people.
Most people have a mix of types, with one or the other being stronger in different situations. Each consistory member got some idea of their primary animal personality types in the abbreviated excercise we did just to get to thinking about ourselves as part of the leadership team. I consistently come up as an Otter. In my life journey I have learned that I desperately need Lions, Golden Retrievers and Beavers on any team I’m on, to help restrain and focus the all over the map ideas I’m always having. I’ve also learned that if all that is not managed well (in other words if the fact that I tend toward Otter is not understood by the others) I can drive them crazy. Beavers and Lions tend to drive me crazy in return. But we need the balance on any leadership team, and I’ve learned to appreciate the other types and see my need for their perspective. Imagine a whole committee of Otters! Would anything get done? No, but we’d have a great time! Imagine a whole committee of Lions! Would there be peace and harmony? No, they’d all be competing to prove their approach was the most effective, and no one would have fun. All Goldies would have love and peace and harmony all around, but without a Lion to toss something for them to fetch… And a team of Beavers would be researching researching and researching, or building building building what they knew how to build, but not much of anything else would be accomplished.
So, now you kinda know what we mean when we say the phrases I stated above. If you want to dig into this more, and maybe do a full version of the test yourself, here’s a link:
It was mentioned to me that it was sometimes difficult to comment on blog pages. I did a little learning and realized that for each individual page I publish there is a checkbox where I have to indicate that comments are to be received for that page. I have gone back and changed them all, and will do my best to remember to check that setting before I publish a page. Thanks to those who pointed this difficulty out. The learning continues…
As announced, this is planned for March 23rd at 10am at the church. It can be valuable for everyone who can come, long term member or short term, to hear the stories of the history of the congregation. Mysteries can be unlocked at such events! Answers to why certain things are done a certain way, or are called what they are called, can sometimes be found! What is the history of “bun lunch”?
Actually, there is no real ‘agenda’ or purpose other than for me, Pastor Pete to become acquainted as quickly as possible with CCC’s history, and having others hear that same history at the same time. To go and visit each household to hear the stories would take too long, and others would not benefit as directly as this.
I haven’t done the final planning yet, but in a general way what will happen is that I will have blank newsprint up somewhere in the main space. That newsprint will be a time-line about 8 meters long horizontally. The timeline will begin with Jesus and end with today. The newsprint will have two lines running along it, dividing it into three bands. There will be three horizontal bands of information collected and filled in as we have the conversation. One band will be about “what was happening in the world at this time” the middle band will be “what was happening in Edmonton and Alberta (regionally)” at that time and the bottom band will be what was happening at the church. I will facilitate the sharing of the stories by asking questions like:
What do people remember about what the congregation was like at the time of the founding, in each decade since? What was the reason for starting the congregation? What is the history of buildings occupied built and expanded?
What was the surrounding community like (at specific times)?
What were significant events each year in each decade?
Who were significant people?
What made us distinctive? What did we do right? What did we have conflict over?
For most of it the conversation will just flow. There are many many questions I will likely ask. If a significant topic comes up I might decide to set it aside and have another town hall to talk just abou that. (an example would be some trauma or tragedy like the time the church burned down, or extreme misbehaviour by a leader, or a split in a congregation)
I will ask for a volunteer or two to write things on the newsprint to remind us of what was said.
I will start the meeting with a prayer and maybe a reading, and then these instructions:
My guidelines sheet for Town Hall history review.
This is about your experience and your memory, not historical accuracy.
Speak from your experience. This means you can say “I remember one time when when someone started shouting “hallelujah!” at the end of songs.” That is speaking from your experience without judgment. I will not like you saying “Some flaming charismatic joined us for a while and would shout hallelujah at inappropriate times.” That is judgement and opinion.
“I loved it when we did this or that”, or “I was very upset when that happened” are the way to talk. That is speaking from your experience.
If your experience of an event someone else tells about was different, and you’d like to talk about it, then tell it as your experience… example “I loved church picnics and miss them a lot. We would have a lot of fun together and…” or “Church picnics were always awkward for me, everyone seemed to have a clan they belonged to, and i felt lost and alone.”
I am moderating, and I will redirct you and maybe even challenge you if I think there are problems with your tone.
Just so the readers of the blog are informed, I will now and then share informaton here about what is needed or planned or in the works.
The next two things that I need to work out as Transitonal Pastor (with the help of other leaders) are these:
I usually work with what is called a Transition Team. This is a team of people who get some training in how churches work as systems, and in transitional processes for systems. They help me run events that we put on (see point 2) and digest and discern and learn from the results of those events. They are usually the group that creates the written answers to the four main questions of this process: Who have we been, who are we now, given that who is God calling us to be(come), and, what kind of pastor do we need to help us get there? Because there is strong evidence of leadership burnout at CCC and a corresponding shortage of leaders, I am trying to think creatively about how to accomplish the same thing without creating a new committee. My initial thoughts are to somehow work with the Churches Learning Change leadership (anyone who participated in the Ridder Renewal process) AND as many council members as possible (all would be great) as the Transition Team. Conversations around that are ongoing.
The first event we need to have is a “History review.“ In that event I will have some prepared material and I will have conversation with whoever attends about what they remember of the history of CCC from it’s beginning. What will be important is not the facts, but the impressions people have, the memories, the meaning they have made of events by the stories they tell. I am hoping to organize that for a Saturday morning in the not too distant future. This information will be documented on a large newsprint sheet to make a visual representation of the history of CCC.