Responding to a question about the decline of the typical old-school denominations, Susan Nienaber writes in “Resilient Congregations”:
Resilience (is) a human capacity that can be developed and strengthened in all people through growth-fostering relationships. … it’s all about the relationships with one another and with God.
Our congregations are going through a miraculous and inspiring time of change and adaptation and I am so excited to see the changes that have needed to happen for a long time. Not every congregation is going to survive intact but I am now convinced that we will be stronger and more faithful communities in the future. (From Alban.org)
Henri Bergson wrote, “To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
I’ve often referred to the fact that I am your called minister, but you are all ministers. I deeply appreciate how this congregation of ministers has embraced congregational health and vitality through ‘creating ourselves endlessly.’ You’ve done so by reaching within through personal spiritual practice that connects us to our being at its depths; by reaching out through connecting congregant to congregant and congregants to congregants; and by reaching out together through connecting to needs outside our walls. Put another way, we thrive because (and to the extent) we attend to “growth-fostering relationships… with one another and with God.”
All these—reaching in, reaching out, and reaching out together— are ways and means of connecting to that mysterious yet ever-present source of inspiration, nourishment, and celebration that moves in and through us making life worth living. I’m willing to call that “God.”
During my up-coming sabbatical, I will obviously be focusing on the “reaching in” part of my thriving so that I will return even more prepared to reach out to you and to reach out together with you to our neighborhood, city, country, and planet. For now, let me take this opportunity to thank you for your ministry in making ours a resilient congregation!