Guest Blogger: The Rev. Canon John Burruss (http://openingourdoor.blogspot.com/)
The main focus of my work with the [Episcopal] Diocese [of West Tennessee] is to lead congregations through a formation process that helps the church build relationships with the community and work to shift their ministries to be both missional and sustainable. Sustainability is about making sure that ministry is infused with different currencies: truth, relationships, wellness, gracious leadership, time and space, and money. It is a shift away from fixing what are perceived as problems of others, and learning how to be in relationship and work together towards holistic transformation. It’s a shift in the way we think to say the very least.
Recently, one of our congregations that is engaged in the work hosted a “Currency of Truth” event. I am grateful for this reflection, from Dr. James Gholson, a parishioner of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church and a member of their Holy Currencies team and I think there are a few insights that can be gleaned.
In the past few months, members of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church have engaged with the Holy Currencies process through our diocese. This process has been helping us explore how to infuse each of the currencies into ministry. On April 2nd at 10:00am, we hosted our Currency of Truth event.
For our Truth event, we invited the newly elected council-person Jamita Swearengen. Council-person Swearengen is a teacher with the Shelby County Schools and daughter of former Memphis Judge James E. Swearengen. Our Priest-in-Charge, Fr. Cubine kicked off the meeting with a short synopsis of the concept of Holy Currencies and the efforts of Holy Trinity Church to connect and dialogue with citizens in its immediate physical community. This area includes Getwell to the east, American Way and Lamar to the south, Semmes to the west, and Park Avenue to the north. Holy Trinity has created a network called a Shalom Zone with the Center for Transforming Communities as a way of building the currency of relationship to bring enabling tools and dialogue to this effort. Several citizens from the community attended this event.
Council-person Swearengen was vigorous and specific in her dialogue with attendees. Along with staff from MLGW, she outlined procedures for using the 311 application, recently rolled out from city government to report blight and non-emergency issues to MLGW (and government officials). Jamita also presented a story of how citizens in the Cooper-Young district funded street and security lights in that area. They used unique technical definitions to fund additional lights and security options. Citizens from the community responded with questions and used the meeting not only as a quest for information, but as an additional opportunity for fellowship. Members of Holy Trinity Church were especially interested in lighting for the church parking area and fresh options for security at St. George's Memphis. One member sought answers for a question regarding Ethernet broadband in the Memphis employment/education enterprise. Attendees were respectful and dutiful in their questioning. Part of the Currency of Truth is making sure that people who traditionally have not had a voice, not only have a seat at the table, but are empowered to speak and share. At no point was the meeting susceptible to the kind of emotional hijacking that sometimes occurs when citizens of an angry and frustrated community engage for good. Holy Trinity is deeply committed to Holy Currencies and walks arm-in-arm with our CTC Shalom Zone to enable sustainable success on the part of Memphis citizens. Thank you council-person Swearengen!
Jim’s reflection raises a few questions. Can the church create a neighborhood association? How can the church participate in the neighborhood conversation?
Holy Trinity has not just opened their door to a neighborhood association meeting, but instead created a sort of neighborhood association and actually facilitated the conversation. This is an enormous shift in the practice of many churches. They are using their influence to be a force for positive change. This was only possible through the cultivation of a network of other faith leaders, business owners, and residents. I am grateful for their commitment not just to open the doors to the community but work for transformation. I am eager to see where this leads the congregation and the neighborhood.
Reflection Questions for Day of Pentecost (Year C)
Upcoming Opportunities to Study with The Sustainist and learn more about Holy Currencies and Gracious Leadership:
July 18-22, 2016
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