Wednesday, March 6, 2013

More Networking

If you are one of the few people that bother to follow this blog you will have noticed that the activity has picked up recently. I'm making an effort. However, I must admit that I am not able to do the sort of well polished and crafted posts that used to be common here. Back in the day, when I first started at Messiah, I had a half-time Administrative Assistant and a half-time Lay Pastoral Associate. As a result I was able to spend a lot more time in my office at my computer thinking and reading and writing. These days I spend less time in my office and more time out and about either running errands for the church or attending meetings or simply working from home. The leaflet, alone, represents about a full-day's work, but I mostly do it at night (usually Thursday night) because that's one of the best times for me to get uninterrupted time at my computer. Here is the leaflet from Lent 3, to give you a sense of the sort of thing I'm creating in my basement at 1 AM.

I'm sure that a professional designer would have lots of improvements to suggest to increase readability and to be attractive, but it's not bad for the work of a amateur who is totally self-taught when it comes to InDesign. This leaflet is obviously designed to be much more than a crutch to bridge the gap between Prayer Book, Bible, and Hymnal. I'm actually trying to do some teaching through this thing, as you can tell from the exegetical margin notes next to the scripture readings. When I have more time I'll often add material about the origins of well-known hymns and other things.

Quick aside: far too few churches use InDesign or other professional layout programmes to design their leaflets. Sure, the software is expensive and you need people able to learn it, but it's well worth the investment in both to have nice looking publications. Also, it can save a lot of time to make the equivalent layout versus Word or Publisher or something like that where you constantly have to fight the programme to get it to obey.

Anyway, back to my day. I spent a sizable chuck of it having coffee with a guy with a lot of great ideas (and some experience) with Missional Church. He has been a part of number of different Christian Communities and has a lot of insight to offer. He has recently gotten pulled into the orbit of Anglican-land Fresh Expressions, NCD, Natural Church Development, and the "Crazies in the basement." I'm still in the "Initial Networking" phase of the Café Messiah, Road Map. Everything is still in flux. In fact, in my mind I'm switching the name from "Café Messiah" to "The Commons." As we threw ideas around and brainstormed I realized that the problem with "Café Messiah" is that it is a little too narrow and a little too business-focused. I played around with something like "The Free Place" to try to see if the anti-consumerism vibe would strike a chord, but not quite. "The Commons" is the best name we've come up with so far. The bones are still the same: a third-space/community centre that would have a light concession to support itself and would run some programmes designed to help people with life issues from a light-touch Christian perspective. It was a very useful talk to help me clarify some of my thinking as well as lay the ground work for future collaboration with this individual.

After the coffee I had time to go home and change and kiss the wife before dashing off to to do a Communion Service at Hazelton Place--a local retirement home. I do these sorts of services in retirement homes about once or twice a month on average. I could do more, but they are time consuming. (Actually, there is another retirement residence not too far from my church whom I'm planning to approach about starting a monthly Communion Service for the Anglicans.) The folks at Hazelton Place were gracious and lovely, as they often are in retirement homes. We sang some hymns to music played on a CD and I preached a better-than-average sermon about the Isaiah 55 passage from last Sunday. When it was said and done I felt that particular professional satisfaction of having done a good job. I have impossibly high standards for myself, so high that I rarely achieve them on a Sunday, but for some reason I am still able to pass the mark sometimes when I do I weddings, funerals, and nursing home services.

I suppose the problem there is that I freight Sundays down with an impossible burden. We simply can't accomplish all the things we want to in one short morning. I've tried to create events and services during the week with mixed success. For the people that attend the Wednesday morning Contemplative Eucharist and the Saturday Healing Prayer service, for example, are terrific, but it's often people who don't come on Sunday mornings who have found their way into that other groups. Funny how that works!

I've been tempted to start something in a local pub. But, again, it takes more time and energy to do such a thing than the casual observer would suspect. I've been trying to find and develop a volunteer base, but most of the folks in my congregation simply don't have the extra time to give. Like many congregations I have a handful of key volunteers who move heaven and earth to do God's ministry, and I am loath to ask them to take on yet another project when they do so much. So that means going to people on the periphery of our community to find the enthusiasm and gumption to try new things.

Often when people are training to be Priests the focus is on things like theology, biblical interpretation, history, and liturgy. That still makes sense to me--these things are fundamental and even a three-year degree barely has time to scratch the surface in the scheme of things. But 95% of the challenges that I face have to do with working with people. I constantly find myself asking some version of this question, "Where is John encountering God?" Straight out asking people usually leads to a certain amount of awkward squirming. People are embarrassed when they don't have an immediate answer. So I try to ask other ways. "What gets you most excited in life?" is a good one. But, still, it's often hard to get to the root of things.

Anyway, enough rambling for tonight. The main point I wanted to make is that church work is complex, and that I'm making progress.

No comments: