Letting go of the Outcomes
For the last year and a half, Lynn and I have been enjoying getting to know a congregation in downtown Peterborough. While I resist talking or thinking like this – it feels like we’ve landed in the right place at the right time. It feels like maybe there’s a mysterious, invisible, hand at work – bringing us to this Church.
I don’t believe in God’s PLAN for my life.
Instead I believe that God has a Purpose for me with many different possible pathways. I like to think that god is as curious as I am about “what will happen next?” Maybe this is just a projection of my own curious approach to life? Instead of travelling with an intinerary; a set of destinations and a timeline – I like to wander in a general direction and enjoy the surprises and challenges as they arise.
One of the risks of travelling this way is the possibility of a dead end. Having wandered off the beaten path in hopes of an adventure, one can end up with a “once in a lifetime” event – or a wasted trip with a bag full of frustrations.
So it’s been with the last year and a half. Applying my experience in Community Development, I encouraged the leaders of the congregation to pursue a professionally facilitated Visioning process.
The congregation was consulted and the community was consulted. Among many suggestions, a clear vision of opening the church building up to Community use emerged.
The “assets” of the congregation were added up, the needs of the community were assessed. Key community partners emerged. Feasibility Study funding was acquired and matched by the congregation. A Steering committee was struck and pilot projects developed and executed. Six congregational meetings kept members up to date with the developments.
The process has stirred up enthusiasm. New friends were made, new volunteers engaged, and a buzz in the community is happening. The Church Council is solidly behind the proposal to create a Neighbourhood Centre filled with programs falling under the headings of “Spirituality, Arts, and Social Justice”.
And the process has stirred up opposition. About 20 members of the congregation (the ones I know about) have voted with their feet. Many of these folks were unhappy when we arrived – and our efforts failed to turn them around. The unhappy folks who have stayed are focusing their complaints on the big guy with the target on his back.
It’s all coming to a head this Sunday with the congregation’s Annual Meeting. The Council is looking for a “vote of confidence” in the proposed Centre. The congregation’s been on a roller coaster ride this past year with both the fears and the thrills of our experiments. The question is will they decide to ride again for another year?
If the proposal gets a thumbs down – it’s back to the drawing board.
But its more than that. It’s hundreds of hours of the church’s leaders putting their best hopes forward. If the proposal ends up as a dead end – there’s going to be a bag full of frustrations to deal with.
My mantra this morning is “work hard and let go of the outcomes”.
I put this wisdom up there with “love your enemies” in terms of achievability.
Disappointment, deflated hopes, twists and turns in the road, are all part of the journey. Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier to face the last bend in the road. Will we reach the promised land? Or, will it be another year wandering in the desert?
Wandering in the desert is all about learning to trust in the Lord. Moses and god kept coming thru for the people but I’m not sure the people ever really did learn their lesson. When things were good they praised god’s blessings. When things were bad they complained and doubted. So it goes.
Maybe god just finally got tired of wandering with the Israelites and decided to see what they’d do with a land of milk and honey. “Remember” warns Moses “when you get to that promised land – don’t forget how it was god who helped you get there. Remember to tell your children and your children’s children.”
Will the story that George Street has to tell about this chapter be a story about what “we did”, or about what “I did”? Or will it be a story about what "god did" among a dwindling faithful few who risked another climb to see what’s on the other side?