Moving things around

My congregation may or may not help to create one of the “1001 New Worshiping Communities” the PC(USA) is promoting, but just having that challenge before us has made a difference.


It’s further evidence that, as a rule, we should embrace the possibility of change, not resist change at all costs.


I’ve been part of a small group from my congregation this past year that has been dreaming together about what a new worshiping community would look like if we were to help get one going or just support one’s emergence. This discussion has blossomed many ideas — not just for the 1001 project but also for our existing congregation.


We’ve talked about new ways to connect with students attending the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which is our down-the-street neighbor. We’ve thought about renewing a previous effort to connect with a predominantly African-American congregation. And we’ve kicked around lots of other proposals.


Perhaps some of these ideas would have grown organically in the normal course of our congregational life, but the fact is that the 1001 project was the catalyst.


Ideas for renewal require, apparently, some intentionality. Which is to say that without a bit of gardening, without some stirring of the ashes, the fire of commitment and focus tends toward entropy — dying of its own accord.


This approach of intentionally making some changes is just one of the reasons a visioning task force that I chaired in my congregation last year recommended a switch in function for our deacons and a new way of thinking about mission. The recommendation was adopted and the change improved the way we care for our own members in need and it gave us a renewed approach to spending our mission dollars.


There was nothing terrible about the way we had been doing internal pastoral care and mission for the last 20 years, but there was a certain staleness about it, a certain flatness. Now the flames are burning brighter.


I am married to someone who fairly regularly surprises me by moving things around in the house — pictures on the walls, appliances on kitchen counters, contents of drawers. That sort of thing. At times it can be a little disconcerting, especially for someone like me who prefers a set routine and advance notice of shifts.


But I have to admit that these Marcia-induced changes cause me to think anew about how we arrange our mutual life in our house and what else we might want to rearrange.


And so it is in church families, too. If our worship leaders never changed a thing about the way we conduct Sunday morning services, eventually we’d snore our way into apathy — even if we love the current structure.


Opportunities for change don’t necessarily produce the changes they were created to produce. But, like the 1001 project in our congregation, they can be vehicles that help to keep our souls in tune, our gray matter on alert, our spirits in harmony with the restless movements of the Holy Spirit.


So I hope your congregation is wrestling with 1001 ideas, too.

Bill Tammeus

BILL TAMMEUS is an elder at Second Church in Kansas City, Mo., and former Faith columnist for The Kansas City Star. Visit his “Faith Matters” blog at billtammeus.typepad.comRead about his latest book at E-mail him at