What We Heard & What It Means for Us
For the past two months we have been speaking with you about who we are and what we are about as a faith community. Through surveys, workshops, written responses, and conversations, we have asked and you have answered. Thank you for those deep and thoughtful responses! Below is a summary of what we heard, some key issues and questions raised, a foreshadowing of the work to come, and what will be happening next.
Overall, this is what we heard:
we are an inclusive and affirming community of people with a diverse array of stories, ages, cultures, needs, and wants, but who all generally gather for four reasons:
to explore and grow in the faith and spirituality of Jesus;
to belong to and experience an affirming Christian community;
to be seen, cared for, and supported through all that life brings; and
to practice justice and reconciliation in order to make our world a better place for everyone.
You used a lot of wonderful words and phrases to describe what matters most to us: connecting, grounding, growing, centring, recharging, living out faith, comforting, safe, belonging, supportive, active, refuge, encouraging, helping, community, loving, and giving back. As we reflected on these words and the emotions behind them, it was clear to us there is a consensus about the specific values at the heart of RDLUC:
community: We are an inclusive and affirming Christian community that appreciates and honours diversity. We strive to be people of belonging, where people are celebrated as they are, where friendships are forged, and where everyone is made to feel safe and at home.
hospitality: We understand hospitality isn’t just coffee and saying ‘welcome!,' but the atmosphere of allowing people to feel at home. It is an outward posture of creating space for people to belong and connect with God, others, and themselves.
spirituality: We gather to explore and grow in the faith and spirituality of Jesus. We understand Jesus shows us a new way of being human and alive in this world, and we gather to become more like the kinds of people he invites us to be: people of love and peace who have joined in on what God is doing in the world.
compassion: We strive to be a people and place that responds to the spiritual, emotional, and communal needs of ourselves and one another, and where space is made to learn how to navigate life well, at all its stages.
social justice: We believe we are called to make a creative difference in the world, doing what we can to not only learn about justice issues, but actively do our part to make this world more like the one God created it to be.
Take a second to appreciate those. As emergent as they are, those are beautiful and deeply Christian values. The point of naming and adopting these is that values are what shape and guide our work. Thank you for helping us to better name and articulate our core values! We will use these to determine and guide the work we do together.
we also heard there’s some specific work you want us to focus on:
Attraction & Retention: The majority of responses for ‘who isn’t here?’ named attracting young families and working professionals as a priority for our church. We heard that you believe it is important for the ongoing work and life of this community for us to all reach out into the communities around us, let them know we are here, and invite people to join us on this journey. We also heard you want us to focus on how to retain and honour those who already call RDLUC ‘home’ and on how to respond to their needs and concerns.
Transparent Communication: As we grow in size and scope, communication is an important but difficult task. We heard that you want more communication about what is happening and how decisions are made. We will continue to work at this on every level. Knowing that communication is a two-way street, we will also work to cultivate trust and approachability and empower our community to actively seek out the information they need.
Shared Leadership: We have heard you say while our leaders need to lead, we need to think about how we lead together. We agree. Affirming and clarifying the boundaries of the roles of minister, staff, and volunteer, and how we do that collaboratively and cooperatively, is something that needs to be re-imagined as we implement our vision and action plan.
Building Our Culture: Culture is a name for the overarching patterns, attitudes, and beliefs that guide how we think, act, and work together. We heard many of you celebrating our culture by naming how you appreciate being cared for by others, being inspired and challenged through sermons or worship, and feeling like you have a place to belong. We also heard there’s more work to do around dealing with behavioural problems, enhancing systems and procedures, and moving towards a more expansive affirming posture. We will continue to build our culture by identifying areas that need attention and by continuing to appreciate, celebrate, and evolve the great things we already have.
"Worship" is one of the central things we do together and you had a lot to say. It was clear to us there is a consensus that Sunday mornings and programs such as Dinner Church are seen as sacred and intentional times for people to connect with God, explore and grow in their faith and spirituality, and experience grace and peace. When asked “why do you show up?” this was the number one answer.
The big question is "how we do that together?” This is where the joyful challenge lies because we all don’t want and need the same things. Some people resonate with older hymns, while others resonate with newer music. Some enjoy communal forms of learning, while others enjoy traditional sermons. Some people want a choir and some people do not. While some desire a modernized church experience, others desire the opposite. It can feel polarizing, but that’s exactly what we’d expect to find in an inclusive and affirming community that values diversity.
What this tells us is that our community wants to be about both innovation and preservation. It wants to honour bothnew and ancient traditions as we gather to connect with God and explore the life Jesus calls us into. Our work moving forward will be to continue to learn how to better exist harmoniously and joyfully within that tension. Hiring staff, establishing a rhythm for different groups, styles, and preferences (particularly within the music program), improving our kids’ programming, and focusing on a standard of excellence will be one of our top priorities.
One of the key issues the Board heard you raising is one the Board has been rumbling with for years: “how can we be a congregationalist church in the 21st century?” That is: “With the changes in how church is practiced and attended, with acknowledging that Sunday is now a very privileged hour, with practicing boundaries and self-care, and knowing we need to let leaders lead, how can we be a church that is still led by the people?” Or to put it another way:“How do we balance the need and role of paid staff with the need and role of volunteers in a way that is not only pragmatic and functional, but honours our theological understanding that the church is the people?” As we look ahead to the work we have to do this is one of the issues we will need to explore together.
what's happening next:
This is a lot of information!
We ask that you sit with this summary and hear what your community is saying. Listening to the people around us and acknowledging their needs, wants, and desires is an important part of being an inclusive and affirming community. We’re asking you to take some time to do that and remember that it’s not just about you - it’s about being the church, today, tomorrow, and in the years to come. It’s about being people who are caught up in God’s Spirit and who work, live, and love together. We’re asking you to sit with this because this is what shapes where we go from here.
Based on what we have heard from you, the vision we have received is not substantially different from our current vision and action plan. We will not be going back to fully rewrite it. The task, as we understand it, is one of how to implement our vision and ofwhere our time and energy goes.
On Sept 15th, the Board will offer our answer to that ‘how’ and ‘where.’ We will offer you some key areas of focus and our initial ideas of the specific work we will do together over the next 6 months, year, and 5 years. We believe that by focusing on attraction and retention; leadership and communication; and staffing, we will be able to respond to what we have heard, honour our values, and find some momentum to be the church we hear God calling us to be. We will then ask you to sit with this vision and action plan and reflect on how you can be a part of it. This will be an important piece of the process because this is not something we can do alone. We want everyone to come along on this journey. During this time, the Board will be available for any questions and ideas you may have. On Sunday, Sept 29th, we will gather to say thank you for all the hard work that’s gone into this, recommit to being the church together, and celebrate moving forward, knowing and trusting God is with us, leading the way.
Again, thank you for being a part of this process! We are all thrilled with how it went and feeling excited and hopeful for our future. May God bless all of you and all of us as we continue to be the church together.
Grace & Peace,
The Board of RDLUC
Michelle Den Hoed, Carol Gordon, Rev. Nick Coates, Justin La, Shane Penner, Judit Pothier, Ron Steele, John Robertson ,Andy Porter