The challenge in imagining the future is we tend to project where we are today forward. Life is rarely like that. Ten years ago, we just upgraded from dial-up to AT&T’s new DSL service at a blindingly fast speed of 12 mbps. Today, at those download speeds I’d be pulling my hair out—what little I have left.
Ten years ago I was the Rector’s Warden on my second of three tours of duty on the Vestry. We were just finishing up the implementation of Vision 95 which resulted in the building of Grace House and the expansion of our parish youth ministry, music program, Columbarium and Meditation Garden. Back then we faced a bad economy from the dot com bust, saw churn of parish members because Silicon Valley melted down, and struggled with what the future would hold for St. Timothy’s.
Today, ten years later we have a different crappy economy, churn of members and the same need to be focused on the mission of the church and what God is called us to be at St. Timothy’s.
Some wonder why we have undertaken this Vision 2020 process now when the economy is weak, uncertainty is high and now we have the added pressure of Steven’s retirement. The truth is there is never a better time than now to imagine and plan for the future.
Why? Because we need time—time to think, time to pray, and time to dream. 2020 is not that far off to imagine our future, develop a plan, raise the money and get it down.
The truth is tough times are often the best time to dream big. They force us out of our complacency. They challenge our convention wisdom and assumptions. We’re hunkered down and coasting right now and that is not good for St. Timothy’s and not good enough for God.
The mission of the church is relentless. Grow or die.
So how can St. Timothy’s face is future with big dreams and ideas bold enough to capture the imagination of people beaten down by a crappy economy? We can do it because we don’t want to keep coasting as individuals, as families, as professionals, and as a parish congregation.
So here’s my idea to whet your appetite.
I propose Vision 2020 goals build on our strengths and live into our unbroken chain of faith to pull the bus out of the ditch and ‘boogey down’ God’s road.
- Step-Up. In a scenario choice between aging gracefully and doubling down for growth I want to slide into home plate by sliding face first over the finish line. I believe the best way to jump start the parish in this crappy economy is to roll up our sleeves and get to work on the mission of the church. Step Up is a strategy to use technology to match the needs of the people in the parish with the skills of the people in the parish. I seek to create a parish community where everyone is involved contributing his or her skills and reaching out to help others by putting them to work. Ministry programs need people of faith to help do God’s work across many areas.
- St. Cares. St. Timothy’s cares about people beyond our parish community and outreach has always been a passion for the parish. Now is the time to live into our faith and follow Paul by doubling down on outreach. We have a few ministries we have supported over the years but there is more to do—much more. The parish can be a catalyst for change when we need it most to help transform the lives of those in need.
- Saints & Sinners. We can’t work and worry all the time. We need a little fun. We need to rebuild a sense of community—of being in this together. Saints & Sinners was the original name of St. Timothy’s fellowship program. It help build up our faith family more than 60 years ago and it would still work today. We need to celebrate our faith, celebrate our work, and celebrate our time together as part of Christ’s family. Just do it and do it often is my motto.
- Following Paul. I believe that we are part of an unbroken chain of faith that came from God in a message to the Bishop of California to the Rector of St. Paul’s Walnut Creek. I’ve said it before many times—“Wilfred, I want a mission congregation down the road in the San Ramon Valley,” said Bishop Shires in 1953. And one month later—Wilfred Hodgkin, Rector of St. Paul’s made it so! If that is not God’s economy at work I don’t know what it! We are called to follow Paul and add a link to that unbroken chain. We can do it the old fashioned way and plant a new mission church somewhere else ‘down the road’ or we can imagine a new way to serve God.
What new way?
I don’t know but use your imagination. One way might be to blend together our passion for outreach, our goal of getting everybody at St Timothy’s involved and adopt a worthy cause that we are going to focus on and make a material difference in their success potential. Maybe it’s a GAIA program in Malawi. Maybe it’s a long term commitment to outreach ministry in the Monument Corridor. Maybe it’s doubling down for Sentinels of Freedom to give wounded warriors a fresh start.
Whatever it is be bold—make a difference. Pick a goal that seems impossible—one that requires heavy lifting by many. God does not give us burdens we cannot carry—and I believe that if we discern a cause that follows Paul and lives into our unbroken chain of faith God will be with us every step of the way.
Doing these things will require commitment. They will certainly require money. If our hearts are invested in the parish vision then our treasure will surely follow. I believe God is with us and will help us discover what He wants us to achieve in our service and dedication to our faith.
We just have to listen and get to work. We just need to have faith. We just have to do it!