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It was just a couple of weeks ago that we gathered as a community of faith to reflect on 2016 and to begin dreaming forward to 2017 and beyond. The structure of the meeting was different this year as it occurred within the context of our regular 10:30 a.m. worship service. Last Sunday I invited both congregations, those who gathered at 8 a.m. and those who gathered at 10:30 a.m. to reflect on that experience. Overwhelmingly the response was positive. Everything from the fact that the meeting itself was better attended than anyone could remember to a recognition of the power of anchoring this kind of meeting in prayer.

For me it was an incredible experience to gather with all of you and to reflect on who we are as a community of faith. It was the second week in a row that the Lectionary treated us to a remembrance of Jesus’ baptism. This time Jesus asks a question of John’s disciples who were following him: “What are you looking for?” Jesus also issues an invitation: “Come and see!”

Those became launching points for questions that we all reflected on. “What are you looking for when you interact with St. Jude’s, whether that’s at a worship service, a time of formation, an outreach experience, a social event? What are you looking for? What are you seeking? What do you most hope for?”

Looking at those hopes and expectations, we shared how St. Jude’s helps to meet those needs.

And then we looked at the concept of invitation, asking, “How do you share the news about how St. Jude’s addresses what you most hope for?” It was a question designed to launch us into one of our focus areas for 2017 and beyond as we wondered together what it might to ask the question, “What is it that you deeply long for,” out in the public sphere with folks who may identify as “spiritual but not religious” or perhaps “None of the above” when asking about their religious identification.

We’ll be calling together a group of people from St. Jude’s to begin exploring that question. We’ll begin by studying a couple of different books: The New Parish: How N Neighborhood Churches are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community and Congregations in Transition: A Guide for Analyzing, Assessing, and Adapting in Changing Communities. Using the comprehensive tools contained within those books, we’ll begin dreaming a plan for moving forward into being.

None of this is meant to replace what we do at St. Jude’s. It’s a chance for us to extend what we do so well at St. Jude’s in forming an authentic caring community to the communities around the church. It’s a chance for us to experiment with what it might mean to be a church without walls at the same time as keeping and growing our current congregation within our walls.

What do you say? Are you ready to ask the question, “What is your deepest hope,” outside the boundaries of our congregation? Are you ready to see what “Come and see,” might look like for those who are not a part of our community? Will you join me on the journey?