» What kind of wisdom and leadership are you looking for at this time, close to your life? Where are you finding it? *
The community at Gethsemane Episcopal Church in downtown Minneapolis is facing a problem that, I imagine, is not uncommon in these times. We, as a church, are not financially sustainable. We have a beautiful old church that requires upkeep and maintenance and our operating costs exceed our revenue by an uncomfortably large amount.
Yet, we are not without assets. We have a vibrant and growing community at a time when many religious communities in the area are shrinking. Despite our own financial woes, are able to organize and support a food and clothing shelf and provide assistance to those who have lost their apartments due to building foreclosure. Our building, though costly, has a gym and a stage that provide wonderful space for the community to use.
How can a church with such energy and spirit be failing? Our priest, an embodiment of the energy and spirit of the congregation, made it plain last week at the annual meeting: the old way of doing things is simply not working. Gethsemane cannot be content as a building and a location. It must be a community beyond the walls of our church. Simply put, what it means to be a church has to be redefined and reworked.
To provide that vision, he turned to the congregation. Our energy and ideas drive the remaking of Gethsemane. Our ideas have been small thus far: Taking advantage of social networking sites like Facebook and Ning to strengthen the community, work to make the church environmentally friendlier both in the health of the building and the behavior of our members, for example. These ideas alone will not save the church, but they are the start of a process that will change the way Gethsemane "does church."
As people look for guidance during these troubled times, I encourage them to start with themselves. In my own community, our financial problems are dire, but by unleashing the energy of the congregation and being open to the transformative power of that energy, we can ensure that, no matter the fate of our building, that Gethsemane survives.
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