A Email from the Left Coast

I received this email, guess people outside read this blog as well.

Subject: Kudos on Experimentaion
Message: Dear Bishop,

My name is Mark Price. I am an ELCA pastor, but I am not a member of your fine synod. I currently am (very happily) serving St. Paul Lutheran Church, Lodi, California in the Sierra Pacific Synod.  I am writing today because I am finding a lot of inspiration from the notion of being a Synod of Experimentation and a congregation of experimentation and a pastoral leader of experimentation.  I showed your video to the congregational council last night and it was greatly appreciated.  I want to say "thank you" for using social media in such an effective manner to get this simple idea out. (20% of our time and resources set aside for experimentation - simple, timely and straightforward.)

At St. Paul's we are experimenting with a "Year of Jubilee. We began September 1. In this year our congregation has committed itself to minimize its meetings.  Instead we gather one Sunday per month for a combined morning worship service. Some weeks that means that the space is overfull but it is worth it, because after worship we gather with the following agenda.

1. Groups of 6-8 form around round tables. Each table has a 'host.' People are encouraged to gather with others that they do not know well. (our congregation worships 250 so this is possible.) The small groups then engage in directed conversation designed to increase their connection with one another. (The purpose of St. Paul's is to connect with God, each other and the world.)

2. We then have a member of the community give a ten minute "Ted Talk" about their faith. The key question that the talk is to answer is "How do I experience God's activity in my daily life?" or "How, where, when do I connect with God?" 

3. A catered lunch is then served family style and over the meal people in the small groups are asked a directed question which enables them  to share how they see God active in their daily life.  Near the end of lunch, the treasurer gives a brief report on how our financial stewardship is doing and what connections that gives us to the world.  

4. After lunch is cleared we then break out into active ministry groups. Some of these groups deal with institutional matters (like the Christmas pageant) but other groups - the best ones - are formed based on a shared interest or calling. "How to start a Bible Study," "Random Acts of Kindness," "Care of Creation Gardening,"   are some of the ministries that have formed. 

If folks don't wish to gather in a group for planning, but want to do something that day, then we try to have at least two hands on activities. Last month there was advocacy letter writing table and a packing LWF kits table. 

5. The entire event is surrounded with music that is unapologetically camp based with lots of hand motions and . . . silliness. But it seems to be working in that the music and silliness builds connection and community.

During the week we try to limit our meetings to Bible Studies, fellowship, worship and music. Not every board has been able to let go and do their ministry in a new way on Jubilee Sundays, but most have.  (The Deacons do like to meet and publish minutes etc., and Social Ministry is really excited about their ministry and they like to meet more than once per month (thats a good thing) and the council meets but in a very different way to take care of some of the necessary institutional business.)  

There is much more to tell about our experiment and the story is still unfolding as we are only two months into our year.  The council and staff are constantly tweaking the idea but we think it is creating a deeper sense of connection with God and within the community of St. Paul's. We are hopeful that it will also create a deeper connection with the world - but we aren't there yet. However, along with the deeper sense of connection has come some renewed energy for ministry. 

Thanks for giving me a place to share the opening chapter. 

The bigger point is that I hope you can feel good that your Synod of Experimentation is having an effect beyond your synod.