I spent this past Thursday afternoon with member of the Presbyterian urban consortium that includes the 12 Presbyterian Churches in Rochester, New York. The size of these congregations ranged from over 1,000 members to under 75 members. This group gathered several months ago to discern how they could support and resource each other, and how they could work together to build up Presbyterian mission work and presence in the Metro Rochester area. At our gathering, there was lots of energy, ideas and excitement expressed by members from the churches on projects they could do together, e.g., Elders’ training, work projects, be a prophetic voice on issues impacting the Rochester community. These churches felt it was important to move past the talking stage and to walk the walk!
On Friday, I drove down to Geneva Presbytery to hear about how the Presbytery and several churches in the Presbytery are teaming up to organize a new fellowship for immigrant Chinese living in Corning, New York. The fellowship is housed in the First Presbyterian Church in Corning. Several folks expressed how much this emerging ministry is not only transforming the members who are joining this fellowship but how it has also spiritually impacted the churches that are engaged in partnership with this ministry.
Over the weekend, I met with the Rev. Judy Hay and members of the urban congregation she serves, Calvary St. Andrew. Members of Calvary St. Andrew have been involved in addressing affordable housing issues, public safety, community violence and other community issues with faithfulness, imagination and creativity. This smaller membership urban congregation has never let their size or the challenges that they constantly face in their community overwhelm them. This congregation has developed affordable housing projects, organized their diverse community around a variety of issues and deepen their relationships with their neighbors. This is a congregation that is sharing God’s good news wide and deep with its community.
Each of these stories reflect congregations who are excited about taking the gifts that God has given them to serve their communities. These congregations see their cup not half-empty or half-full but overflowing with God’s spirit! When I visited with each of these groups, I experienced a spirit of hopefulness, enthusiasm and a can-do spirit for doing God’s work.
When I visited these groups, an article written by Michael Lindvall, pastor of Brick Church in New York came to mind. This article was published in the latest Presbyterian Outlook, June 29, 2009. The article is titled “Subway Attitude.” Michael writes the following – “I recently read an article about some extensive research a group of church consultants had done with congregations across the country. Some of the congregations they studied were growing; some were shrinking. The research report said that there was only one consistent factor that differentiated the ones that were thriving from the ones that were not. It wasn’t liberal or conservative theology. It wasn’t traditional or contemporary worship style. It wasn’t even geographic location. Consistently, the report said, churches that were thriving operated out of what the report called a mindset of abundance. ‘We have something to offer, and whether we’re rich or poor, conservative or liberal, praise songs or hymnbook, by the grace of God we have everything we really need to be the church. On the other hand, the congregations that were not thriving, typically operated out of what the researchers called a mindset of scarcity.’ There’s not enough to go around. We don’t have enough resources to offer much, and we won’t be able to do a lot until somebody gives us what we need.”
So what kind of mindset does your congregation and leaders operate out of - a spirit of scarcity or abundance?