What About Launching a New Congregation in our Area?
I have often said publically that we should always understand God's Great Commission to the Church to include five different kinds of growth:
1) our spiritual growth as people ("Experience God")
2) our growth into deeper community ("Create Community")
3) the growth of our ministry to others ("Mend the World")
4) the growth of the parish in terms of size, and
5) the sponsoring of new congregations.
St Marks has been experiencing the first four, but we have yet to seriously consider or engage with the fifth kind of growth.
Before I came to St Marks, some of the leaders expressed hope that St Marks, rather than growing larger, would support the launching of a new mission -- that is, to help start a new Episcopal congregation. (My view on this, as with so many things, is always to think about "both/and" rather than "either/or" and never to consider "neither/nor!")
Over the past number of years, some members and leaders of St Marks have continued to express their preference for supporting a new mission. However, we've been so engaged in so many new initiatives, we have never gotten around to seriously considering it.
In our recent considerations about acquiring additional land, several persons have again urged us to consider supporting the launching of a new mission. I admit freely that there is nothing that would excite me more. To foster the launching of a new congregation, at least once in my life, is one of the things near the top of my "bucket list."
Because we haven't yet seriously engaged it, and because several people are continuing to urge us to consider it, and because it would have an effect on how we might pursue things over the next few years, I believe it's important, perhaps even urgent during our current time of discernment, for us to discover whether there is sufficient interest among us to take a serious look at what launching a new congregation might mean.
If we were to discover that there is little or no substantive interest in our becoming engaged in launching a new mission, then that is something we should know. Those who continue to urge it at this time have a right to know this. But if were to discover, on the other hand, that there is sufficient substantive interest, then perhaps we should collect those interested into a focus group, for prayer, learning, and planning. Even if most members of St Marks were to continue to focus on the first four kinds of growth, with no interest in a new mission, those who are interested deserve both the opportunity and my support.
The crucial question is whether the interest is both sufficient and substantive. If the continued urging to consider a new mission turns out to be primarily a way to avoid thinking about our other growth considerations, then it is neither sufficient nor substantive. If the interest is only a pipe dream for some of us, then we should learn this and put it aside for the time being.
To help us discover our interest level, I put together a quick, initial survey. If you're part of the St Marks community, or would like to join with us in launching a new mission were we to do so, please complete the survey between now and New Year's eve.
If we should discover that we have sufficient, substantive support, then I will make sure that our Strategic Planning committee considers how this will impact our current discernment. But if there is not sufficient, substantive support, then the Strategic Planning committee can continue their current considerations without thinking about a new start in the foreseeable future.
You may take the survey on the St Mark's website by going here: http://www.stmarkshighland.ang-md.org/aboutus/newmission.php
It should take you no more than a minute to complete it. When you click on "submit," it will automatically tally the results. I'll let you by January 2 what those results are.
Grace and peace,