Plans are underway to launch a new congregational learning opportunity through the Riverside Innovation Hub, an initiative of CCV. Congregations selected to participate in this new Public Church Learning Community will be a part of a community of 12 churches moving through a 2-year partnership together. The first learning community runs July 2021 – July 2023 and the second learning community runs September 2023 – September 2025. You can read more about this learning community experience on our previous blog post.
This work is funded through the Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations initiative. We are fortunate to have a local partner, the Minneapolis Area Synod, who is also a recipient of this grant and planning to offer a similar opportunity to congregations in their synod. Our projects are unique but aligned in many ways and we are grateful to be able to collaborate with them in this important work.
This will include offering a shared application process which will go live in February 2021 so that churches considering either (or both) projects can have a streamlined process for applying and discerning the best fit for their congregation. Our CCV blog and Riverside Innovation Hub facebook page will continue to post regular updates about the application and upcoming informational sessions hosted by the Minneapolis Area Synod project and Augsburg’s CCV project.
Congregations who are a part of Augsburg’s learning communities will develop and deepen the knowledge, skills, habits, and values to engage in the work of place-based vocational discernment in the public square for the common good through a method we call the Public Church Framework. This blog post offers a more in depth description of the framework and how we intend it to support the ongoing ministry of local congregations committed to the work of being/becoming a public church.
The Public Church Framework
The Public Church Framework consists of four movements that guide us into more intentional relationships with our neighbor, scripture, our core beliefs, and God’s spirit as we seek to discern how our faith community is called to be and proclaim good news with and for our neighbors. It combines threads the church has historically kept separate – discipleship, outreach, relationships, justice, worship, biblical study, theological reflection, and prayer. The common denominator is the neighbor. We do these things for the sake of our neighbors.
Our learning process will help congregations develop a deeper understanding of their contexts – who and how people live and work there, and their community’s institutions, power structures, assets, challenges, etc. We will do this through the movement of accompaniment. Through accompaniment participants will explore and deepen their understanding of social and cultural trends that affect them and learn about their immediate neighborhoods, towns, cities, regions and/or broader areas of concern.
A note to predominantly white congregations: We have learned that congregations must address the complexities of racism and white supremacy explicitly if they wish to be able to engage their neighbors in mutually life-giving ways. Without challenging the blinders of whiteness and white supremacy, we will do more harm than good. Lament and confession must be a part of, if not pre-requisite to, accompaniment. The necessary work of confronting white supremacy will be woven into accompaniment early on.
Congregations will also learn to leverage their core theological commitments and the biblical narrative as an interpretive lens for understanding their neighbors’ lived realities. We will do this through the movement of interpretation. Through interpretation they will gain clarity about their values and mission in light of their changing contexts. They will also deepen their understanding of their ecclesial traditions and denominational relationships and how they shape and expand their ministry opportunities.
Congregations will develop Christian contemplative practices that will aid in their discernment of how they are being called by God to engage with their neighbors in specific ways that proclaim good news into their lives.
Lastly, our learning community will develop competency in organizing and empowering their congregations to become actively engaged in the particular proclamation of the good news they have discerned. Through this work of proclamation, they will learn to navigate change and partnerships with organizations and individuals in their locations, as part of their transformation into a public church.
Throughout this learning process, congregations will integrate historical Christian practices – accompaniment, theological reflection, prayer, and discernment – as a way of bringing coherence to their congregation’s life of pastoral care, worship, Christian education, and outreach. Involving the entire congregation in this work – rather than leaving it to the paid staff – will build a sense of community among the members of these congregations. The knowledge, skills, and values needed to thrive in this way will be taught through a multi-layered approach including readings, case studies, small and large group processes, experimentation, visits from experts external to our learning community, communal worship and prayer, and cross-pollination within the learning community.