Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Spiky World and The Great Plains-- reflections on the Joint Clergy Session

Creative economy, mega-region in North AmericaThe Spiky World
It is a Spiky World.  The spikes are made more obvious by the Great Plains that separate them.  A Spike grows where wealth, innovation, and political power coalesce. People who are unwilling or unable to relocate to one of the world's Spikes will increasingly find themselves living in a Great Plains of limited government services.  

In the plenary sessions, Diana Butler Bass described church life in the Spike of Washington DC—tolerant, pluralistic, and inclusive.  In our small group we described church life on the Great Plains—sorrowful, stressed-out, and abandoned.

The Great Plains
The compassion evident in the members of my small group as they spoke about the collective grief experience of Nebraskans and Kansans living in small towns is my strongest takeaway from our discussions.
School and Post Office closings, business failures, property devaluations . . . such occurrences weigh down the spirits of folks on both sides of the State line.

A commitment to minister to these failing towns was expressed by everyone around the table.  A common realization that church must take a different form was also acknowledged.  The deployment of pastors to these depopulated spaces on the Great Plains will look more like the sending of missionaries whose ministry is subsidized by other churches.

Preferred Futures
Great Churches, Great Leaders, Great Disciples-- some in the Spiky World, some on the Great Plains.  We will need an organizational plan for the new conference that keeps churches in the Spikes connected to churches on the Great Plains.  Economic realities will require a sharing of resources; the wealth and political power of the Spikes serving the needs of the Great Plains without requiring those churches to adopt spiky innovations that do not fit their ministry.

The Church can not create a Transformed World of equal opportunity, however they can advocate for government policies that address everyone's needs and respect everyone's rights while the free market system produces higher Spikes and broader Plains.

1 comment:

Laura Felleman said...

A model of ministry idea I shared on the Great Plains Conference forum-- The Book of Discipline sets out a process for creating cooperative parishes. One model could be small membership churches in a geographic area served by lay ministers with an elder (appointed to a large membership church as the associate pastor for rural outreach) serving as the administrator of the parish. This would be the equivalent of the larger church supporting a missionary. This rural missionary would facilitate joint outreach projects for volunteers from both the larger and smaller churches (in addition to administrative duties). The rural missionary would be a modern-day circuit rider regularly visiting the large church and smaller churches and sharing stories of the parish's ministry.