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The Art of Building Relationships: Reflections on Establishing New Congregations

Written by Lead Facilitator, Geoffrey Gill

Embarking on new relationships can be a thrilling yet unnerving venture. A whirlwind of questions swirl around in the caverns of my mind: Will they appreciate my eccentricities, or will they view them as a red flag? What if they find me lacking in some way? These daunting thoughts threaten to consume me, yet in a moment of clarity, I understand what truly lies at the heart of this journey – the stories.

a typewriter with the words "the beginning.." zoomed in onAt the inception of each relationship, there lies a narrative waiting to be unfolded. Each person carries with them a unique anthology of experiences, thoughts, and perspectives. These individual stories form the intricate web of human connections, fostering empathy and understanding as we delve deeper into the pages of each other’s lives.

The sacred spaces we create for these stories to flourish is where relationships truly take root. Spaces where judgment is silenced, where authenticity thrives, and where our inhibitions can be set free. In these spaces, we can dare to expose our vulnerabilities, and in the process, foster connections that hold the potential to transform not just us as individuals, but our neighborhoods as well.

As I stand at the precipice of forging new bonds, I embrace the nervous anticipation that accompanies the start of this narrative journey. I may not know what lies ahead, but I have faith in the power of our shared stories. In this space, I can shed my anxieties, leave the apprehension behind, and simply dive into the fascinating world of interconnected lives, one story at a time.

As we venture forth into this process of establishing new congregations, it’s not just about the end result. It’s about the journey, the shared experiences, and most importantly, it’s about every story that weaves us closer together.

The beginning of new relationships is indeed a bit scary, but it’s also incredibly exciting. Because in this journey, we don’t just empower congregations; we build narratives, communities, and ultimately, we build each other.”

When the Work Doesn’t Come with a Manual

In training, our team of RIH facilitators reflected on the emergent and relational nature of the work ahead of us.

Because all we are about and all we hope to do is rooted in relationship, this work is inevitably unpredictable. Relationships = unpredictable!

Because this work is rooted in the uniqueness of each congregation’s context, it will inevitably take on diverse expressions in particular places. Place-based ≠ “one size fits all” approach!

child's hands building legos

Kristina compared it to her experience building Legos with her 5 year old daughter. What we would like is topick out the box of Legos on the shelf and say – “That’s what we want to build!” – and then set out to calmly and predictably move through each step of instructions. What this process is more like is the experience of a parent and child sitting down with the Legos working to create something new. It requires care, attentiveness and resourcefulness. It thrives with patience and creativity.

The work of being a public church in a life-giving relationship with the particularities of one’s neighborhood is discerned on the go, in real life, and often…one relationship at a time. There is no step by step manual (which would be nice!) But there is the promise of the Holy Spirit’s presence and guidance when we create the space for relationships to be fostered that teach us how to show up faithfully as neighbor in our places.