Solemn Promises

A few weeks ago, my congregation voted to affirm this statement of their Vision, Mission and Values as part of the Strategic Plan. This statement will hopefully be what frames what comes next. It will shape the goals that will determine the future of our ministry — which feels like such a critical, finite determination. I have to remind myself that congregations need to do this every five years or so. Because — especially now — ministry is changing so very fast. This is really hard to hold onto when folks are tired of hearing the word discernment and just want to do something rather than talk about it. 
Luckily, I haven’t heard that in a while. 
But, I still know that I need to do everything I can to make this Vision, Mission and Values feel comfortable and familiar for the next step to be as awesome as I hope it will be. And people need to hear something seven times before they remember it — which is challenging with the modern day worshiper. So, I’m trying to be creative which means it’s time for a prayer station. Last Sunday, inspired by Genesis 28:10-22, I preached this sermon inviting myself and the congregation to consider the solemn promise that Jacob makes to remember God’s promises — and then make that promise ourselves.
After the sermon and a brief moment of silence, in the Open Space that we share through this summer, I said something similar to what is written it says on the framed instructions on the table to the right: 

Make Your Solemn Promise

Consider what you might do or say to most act like God looking toward the future of our church.

Upon the colorful paper stones, write that one thing that you might do or say to act like God.

Affix that stone using the glue sticks provided onto the foundation of our church building as we imagine a colorful future full of God’s promise. 

Upon the table, as folks came forward, they found an image of our building in the center of the table. On either side, there were:

  • colorful “paper stones” like the one that Jacob fell asleep on (Well, kinda like that)
  • black markers
  • glue sticks.

All of this was resting upon the requisite cardboard to prevent markers from bleeding all over the pretty altar cloth. There was another set of instructions under the colorful paper stones which said:

Take one of these colorful paper stones.

Write upon it what you might do or say to act like God and then glue it to the church.
That’s your promise!

The idea being that when you lay down your stone — as Jacob did — you make that promise for the future to remember all that God has done and (hopefully) all that God will do. I don’t know if it worked for everyone but I did get one response by email that said: 

I also love the art project you offered – and the discussion of promise – for me, writing on my boulder made me recommit to this process that I must admit I’m getting so tired of – and yet that tiredness is also sadness, fear of what the future holds – can’t wait till I get to the JOY part!!!!

To which, I gotta say, amen.

The end result, which now hangs in the church without any explanation, looks like this.

I don’t know if I should offer an explanation or if I should just let the experience of creating art and making promises speak for itself. This, for the moment, I’m trusting it to God.

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