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February 10, 2019: Canvass Reflections, Part 6, What's In Is Really Out

by Father Jadon

In the last two Sunday readings from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus offended his hometown “insiders” (intentionally or unintentionally is up for debate) by proclaiming that the promised benefits of the “year of the Lord’s favor,” the great Jubilee, would be extended as much (if not more) to outsiders as to insiders like them. When the crowd reacted poorly to his message, Jesus dumped fuel on the fire by quoting ancient Biblical prophets whose message was basically the same: the unfolding of God’s kingdom and inclusion of “outsiders” go hand in hand.  The insiders quickly turned against him, setting off a sort of structural animosity between Jesus and the establishment all the way to the cross, and beyond…

One of the recurring themes from our canvass was interest and/or concern about our future.  The question, “what will All Souls be in 100 years?,” or some version of it, was asked by many.  Some seemed to ask the question with a sense of open curiosity and wonder, while others seemed to ask with a tinge of skepticism or worry, as if to say, “I’m afraid I won’t recognize what All Souls is then, or approve.”  Either form of the question reveals genuine love for this parish and its legacy.  The question is, as our own trajectory unfolds, how will we respond to Jesus’ prophetic call to actively reach outside our established community and its norms?  How will we prioritize outsiders at least as much as we tend to the needs of those already in our circle?

This is one of the principal questions of an approach that our bishop has been introducing to clergy and lay leaders of the diocese.  It’s called “Unstuck Church,” and it helps churches 1) figure out what aspects of their culture are “stuck” in ways of thinking and being that are keeping them from “sustained health” while, 2) seeking (or creating) “holy interruptions” that offer opportunities to interrupt lethargy or decline in their life cycle.  At the heart of this approach is the idea that a church’s mission, first and foremost, should be bringing people newly to Christ and/or into new and deeper relationship with him. This can be understandably threatening to “elders” or existing members, who may want the church they’ve helped build and sustain to focus on taking care of them.  But prioritizing outsiders and newcomers can also be an invitation to those who are already inside the circle to see expanding the circle as a way to use their own spiritual gifts, and the gifts of the community, to find and build the next generation of the church.  Jesus, it seems to me, wasn’t prioritizing outsiders over and above insiders. He knew they needed each other in order for the building of God’s kingdom to ever be complete.

Last Published: February 7, 2019 3:55 PM
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