Last weekend, the Parish Council convened for its quarterly meeting to share the ongoings of ministries within each of the councils and to listen to each other. It was a gathering that was like many others that we have had over the last several months: in the comfort of our own homes and on the computer in the familiar Hollywood Squares style of Zoom. Since shifting to online meetings for worship, fellowship, and mission last March, it is amazing how all of us have grown in our ability to find connection with each other in a Zoom call whilst sharing the ways that we are participating in God’s mission in the world. In the span of a couple of hours, we were able to listen to the ways that each of the councils is planning for the future of our parish and how that future will be filled with the energy of faith, hope, and love.
Towards the beginning of the meeting, we heard from two different ministries about exciting things they have been working on for some months now. First, we heard from the Invite Council. Since June or July, the Invite Council has been working regularly to create a plan to share all of the ministries of our parish in a way that invites us each to take on at least one ministry beyond Sunday morning. From community-minded ministries like those in the Serve Council to the formation ministries in the Grow Council to the ways that we care for each other in the Connect Council to creating a welcoming environment for newcomers and parishioners alike, the Invite Council is creating a way for each council to share the good they are doing and for each of us to come alongside the ministry that most calls to our hearts as disciples of Christ Jesus.
Right after the Invite Council’s invitation, we heard from the Courageous Ground Task Force. This task force has been meeting regularly since June to discern how Church of the Epiphany-Tempe can lean more into becoming a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming spiritual home to anyone who is looking, and they have paid particular attention to ways that our parish can lift up the stories of people of color and learn from those stories how we can be a place that practices the radical welcome of God’s love. In their work, the Courageous Ground Task Force has patiently discerned where it might be good for our parish to begin the work of growing into the fullness of the stature of Christ in the ways that we honor each other’s experiences. Similar to the Invite Council, the Courageous Ground Task Force is inviting us into their work and into the work of becoming beloved community. It is work that will certainly challenge us as we seek to live into the fullness of the stature of Christ, but it is also work that will invite us to grow as a body of Christ.
The Courageous Ground Task Force is going to begin this invitation with an Advent formation program called Becoming Beloved Community. The program is focused on practicing the skills of listening and of being vulnerable with one another as we prepare for the coming of the Christ. For some of us, the work of Becoming Beloved Community is uncomfortable work, and it is for that reason that we might want to listen to the invitation to lean into the discomfort for a time. The only way that we get better at these conversations is by hosting them in our community of faith and asking those questions that might cause us to squirm in our seats. The only way for us to grow into the fullness of the stature of Christ is to take our growing edges on as a practice and to see what comes from the practice after a period of time.
The work that the Courageous Ground Task Force is beginning in Advent will not come to an end when we reach Christmas morning. Instead, it will be a beginning for us as we continue to work towards the vision of the Beloved Community. It will continue in ongoing conversations, in liturgical practice, and in hymns we sing. It will continue in the ways that we continue to seek to grow into the fullness of the stature of Christ, and it will continue in the ways that we experience the growing pains that comes with being stretched in our practice of Christian discipleship.
The Parish Council meeting last weekend was like so many other meetings that we have hosted via Zoom, and it also was remarkable in one very important way: we got a chance to see the ways that others have been living into their faith lives within their ministries and to celebrate that discipleship.