Observations, Experiences, and Learnings
By now many of you have read my report to you all; it is based upon my observations, experiences, and learnings over these weeks together. If asked to summarize these reflections, I’d offer two words: transparency and hospitality. Recently I referenced the passage in chapter 1 of the Fourth Gospel where we read about Jesus calling Nathaniel to discipleship. Jesus says, “This man is a true Israelite. There is no guile in him.” We remember that “guile” means “deceit.” I noted that Sunday that it is a true reflection of our personal character when others perceive no deceit in us. So, too, our corporate nature is apprehended. Made the connection, didn’t you?
A community of faith becomes an aberration when it slips into deceitful modes of being; integrity and authenticity are rooted in transparency. And this is of a piece with hospitality, which Jesus demonstrates through the calling of Nathaniel (whose name, if my memory of Hebrew is correct, means God’s gift).
Is it possible to welcome persons in part by recognizing the gifts of God they embody or manifest among us? Both Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Kathleen Norris remind us to look deeper and thereby recognize Christ. Easy for me to say, but we know how complicated relationships are. Nevertheless…
Several times I have been told about “successful” congregations; they seem to have everything going for them (“So what is our problem?” is the subtext). Let me disabuse us all of any magic formula. It may be instructive to do a bit of research, as I did recently via face-to-face, on-site visit with the pastor of an energized congregation in another county. Clearly this congregation shares challenges not unknown to Arlington, but others look at the entirety of the ministry and are impressed. Alert: it is good to be impressed, not so empowering to be intimidated. We need to learn from others.
Here is what I learned, by way of further reflection, the congregation moves ahead with confidence in what they are being called to do by God. How does this translate to Arlington? I suggest this community not compare itself to anyone else, yet learn from them. I further suggest that Arlington “own” its authentic sense of self and use its resources from that place of confidence and conviction. With Nate’s nurture you will do well in that endeavor.
One last word about hospitality: I plan to open the outside doors to the sanctuary for a while every Sunday morning in order to dissipate the buildup of “fragrances” typical of closed spaces.