Our Riverside Innovation Hub Lead Facilitator Geoffrey Gill reflects on the past month’s cohort meetings with congregations. Geoffrey shares wisdom and learnings from these important gatherings.
The word spring comes from old English meaning to leap, burst forth, fly up; spread, grow. It’s roots go back to Sanskrit sprhayati “desires eagerly,” and Greek spekhesthai “to hurry up”. (Etymonline)
Spring felt like it took its sweet time this year. It was like expecting a child to be born and then the child is not ready to come out yet. You can’t force these things, you take it one moment at a time and breath. As we breathe into the fullness of spring and our work becomes more and more rooted, it is clear that this work requires us to slow down, to be patient and to move at the pace of a growing flower. It may look slow and arduous at times, and this is the work of sowing seeds; we are like community gardeners for the public church and we are learning that this project moves at the pace of building trustworthy relationships. You can’t force this to work, and you can’t just bypass any important part because it makes you uncomfortable or you don’t understand it. What I’m finding inside of most congregations is this sense of needing things to speed up, there is this deep eagerness to spring forth and jump into action. And on the other hand God is calling us to slow down. Yes, move forward and take action, and don’t move so fast that you can’t smell the spring flowers. Don’t move so fast that you forget or bypass why you’re even doing this work. This time and space of work requires us to trust the flow of the process; to do all we can and then let the spirit do what it’s capable of doing.
So, In-between our large learning events RIH hosts smaller cohort meetings. These meetings focus on the art forms of the public church framework. All of the cohorts met this April. The intentions of these meetings were to build and deepen relational trust, reflect on the process of sharing learnings with the leadership in each congregation and expand more into the art form: interpretation.
During our meeting, we spent a substantial time focused on our leadership summaries. These conversations had high energy and for the first time congregations were really engaged with each other and asking questions; bouncing ideas back and forth. It was empowering to see the groups move from me being the focal point, to the community being the focal point. Seeing the community build more trust, accountability, and support for each other was beautiful; I was moved. This energy is also showing up inside of our congregations individual teams. Through practicing accompaniment, rather consciously or unconsciously, we are listening to each other, really seeing each other, and acknowledging where we are right now. That power can be liberating. Most of our teams are seeing team members show up differently, where they are excited to do the work; showing up with enthusiasm and accepting their leadership role. It’s awesome seeing teams that at one time were struggling to work together and now they are really meshing and free to work together.
As the congregations are connecting inward and outwardly, our locus of focus was on interpretation. During this time I used, menti.com, a website used to collect individual data and share it creatively, as a way to share our thoughts on interpretation. Here is look at some of the responses:
What’s the most life giving part of interpretation:
-ability to reflect
-being part of change – seeing God acting around or even through me.
-seeing things that seemed impossible
-learning I am not alone on this journey
-broad and deep listening
-the potential for finding common humanity with each other, in reciprocal relationships
As our cohorts go deeper and expand more into the heart of interpretation they are also taking a step back and leveraging the springtime. Teams realized that by doing accompaniment during spring, it will open up more space for stories and for the spirit to flow in a new way. So teams are continuing to do that work in their neighborhoods and to reflect together. All teams will be writing up a summary of their findings and sharing it with their church leadership teams later this spring.
One last thing to add, as congregations are moving through the art forms, a process of transformation. I am seeing how hard it is for us to really allow a whole new way of being and operating to happen. During these meetings it’s apparent to me that this is also a time for us to lament with each other; to grieve together. There is so much that God is calling us to let go of and it’s not easy to do so. So I want to take a moment to acknowledge all the congregations. They are truly facing themselves, their fears, and stepping up to make power moves. In general, I don’t think we leave enough space to acknowledge when we have faced our fear and overcome it. These congregations really embody what spring time is about, and by being led by the spirit, are bringing a sense of cleansing, freshness, and new vision for their personal churches and the church’s neighborhood.
Now, our next big gathering is in June. As we go deeper into the framework of interpretation and begin to open to the next art form: discernment, I am so excited about who we at RIH are becoming as leaders, who the congregations are becoming and how all this ripples out and impacts our neighborhood.
One more thing, to close out I will share a few powerful quotes from our last cohort meeting. I hope they inspire you:
⁃ sometimes our prayers are our questions
⁃ How do we walk with others without expectations? (the road to Emmaus)
⁃ Telling the stories, changing the narrative
⁃ Being a part of mutual transformation in our community
⁃ “Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter” (Zimbabwean Proverb)
⁃ Being bold enough to just do it. Do what’s necessary and apologize later. Don’t wait for permission.
⁃ Creating opportunities to run into people.
I’m excited about what’s happening with RIH and our congregations, and my final words are,
…On the journey, it’s not about the destination, it’s always been about who we become on the journey.