In 2021 the church and the world will make a phased re-entry into whatever the post-pandemic normal will look like. After the ongoing tragedy of COVID-19, the church has an opportunity to be a close observer of how God is active as life as we knew it returns in some ways, and is entirely transformed in others.
Are you interested in practicing a way of discernment that could transform how you live out our calling to be church in a changed and changing world? Join us for a three-month exploration of Faithful Innovation Learning Communities. Gather 3-5 people from your congregation, join in on three monthly Zoom calls in, commit to meeting as a group at least one time a month outside of those meetings, and learn a process for discernment and innovation.
Answering the 5 Ws:
Who: 3-5 members of a congregation who are interested in practicing discernment and responding together, along with the rector or priest-in-charge if your congregation has clergy leadership
What: a three month process that includes three Zoom meetings with others in the diocese who are also involved, support from the diocese, and specific practices to try with your congregation
When: A 2022 cohort will be forming soon. Email Canon Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale to learn more.
Where: The three meetings will be held on Zoom
Why: to learn a process for listening and action to better be the church in today’s culture
What is this initiative?
The Faithful Innovation Initiative is an opportunity for churches from across the Diocese of Indianapolis to consider their own answer to this question:
“When you consider the needs of the world and the unique gifts that you have been given, what future can you imagine that God wants to bring forth in our midst?”
A church’s answer to that question might be simple, but it’s not easy. A faithful response will come from members of the parish developing a holy curiosity about their neighbors and themselves, as well as the willingness to risk of doing something different than what people have either never tried or always done.
What is a Learning Community?
The Diocese of Indianapolis’ learning community will comprise people from churches throughout the diocese who commit to pray, practice, learn and share together during a six-month process. The process, which includes resources for study and reflection, includes three evening workshops, monthly gatherings among parish teams, and ongoing experiments and discernment. The community’s work together is itself an act of faithful innovation.
How will our church benefit from participation?
This process has the potential to:
- Equip effective lay spiritual leaders through training and coaching
- Support your church in discerning and responding to God’s call
- Deepen your congregation’s faith with greater integration in community
- Engage and inspire your members
- Clarify and affirm the unique role for your congregation in your particular time and place
Diocesan Coordinating Team
Canon Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale
The Rev. Holly Rankin Zaher
What is a Guiding Team?
Each parish that takes part in the Faithful Innovation Initiative will identify three to five members to serve as a Guiding Team. This team makes possible the participation of the whole church. Members of the Guiding Team attend trainings and receive coaching that equips them to invite other members of the parish to take part in experiments and learning throughout the process. A dedicated coach will provide regular monthly support by responding to team members’ questions and helping them to address challenges that may occur.
Building a Guiding Team
Participants on your church’s Guiding Team should have these qualities, skills and abilities:
- Demonstrated leadership skills in church life or another context
- Ability to work as part of a team
- Curiosity and willingness to experiment without having a preconceived outcome
- Willingness to pray and to incorporate other spiritual habits introduced in the Faithful Innovation Initiative trainings
- Desire and ability to personally invite other members of the church to take part in experiments and learnings at multiple points in the process
- Commitment to take part in the three trainings and all Guiding Team gatherings
- Commitment to respond to phone calls, emails, and other communications that will be part of this process
- Willingness to try new ideas and new vocabulary, trusting that God’s guidance and imagination are big enough to provide
- Serve as representative of the congregation with regard to age, race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, and socio-economic status
Commitments of time and abilities:
Each member of a Guiding Team will commit to:
- Three evening training workshops
- An average of one monthly meeting with members of the Guiding Team for coaching and planning in preparation for experiments related to the Faithful Innovation Initiative, and reflection and discernment after the experiments
- Time inviting and preparing other members of the parish to participate, and then reflecting and sharing stories after learnings and experiments have taken place
- Learning, practicing, and sharing a variety of skills, including listening to God through scripture, hearing the stories of other church members, and walking through their neighborhoods with a holy curiosity about how God is inviting their engagement
Dwelling in the Word
Dwelling in the Word is a simple and ancient practice of listening to scripture and to one another in community.
Step 1: Read
- Invite a volunteer to read the passage aloud. As the text is being read, invite people to be open to the Spirit through these questions:
- What captures your imagination? Are there words or phrases that grasp you?
- Is there a question you wish you could ask a scholar about this passage?
- Pause for a moment of quiet reflection
Step 2: Listen to one another
- Find a reasonably friendly-looking stranger
- Each person has 2-3 minutes to share what she or he has heard or wondered about in the reading, with the focus of attention to listen attentively to the other
- After 2-3 minutes, switch to the other person
Step 3: Listen together
- At the conclusion of Step 2, return to the large group
- Invite people to share what they heard their partner saying (not their own questions or thoughts, which is more difficult than you might expect!)
- Close with prayer
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.” I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.
Listen to Others Assignment:
Ask people in your parish about when they have felt most spiritually alive. With the person’s permission, write down some notes you can share with your team.
Here is a possible introduction to your conversation—“We are trying to learn about how people experience God in their everyday lives. So we’re asking some people in our parish a few questions about their spiritual lives. Thanks for being willing to talk to me.”
Reflect on a time when you would say you grew spiritually in a significant way. Describe what was happening in that period of your life.
What was it about this time of your life that you think caused you to grow spiritually?
Was there something during this time of your life that you think God was trying to teach you or show you?
Where do you experience God’s presence most often now? (i.e. in worship, in nature, in conversation with friends/family, in prayer, in Bible study, at yoga, etc.)