Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Letting go of the Outcomes

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?


Carol said...

Seeds take time.
I so applaud the special visions, gentle persistence, and talents in community building you bring to the Church. You've been one of my ecclesial heros.
In the rear view mirror, or perhaps it's my view from an evolutionary cosmology, yes, join me there. The visions of some, the hours of work of others, even the needs of a community now... have been planted. They may need a few more days, a few less members, or five or more years than the agenda has planned to germinate and push their way through the clay and crack the pavement.
I saw this in the heart of the city even though I was sad not to have been a part of the actual work of growing and transforming the garden. The seeds did, in the right time, and without the 'target' as an excuse any longer in the way, blossom. Sigh.
But even more telling, was what happened after the seeds finally blossomed. The vision served for a time, and it was good. Then the community amalgamated and the building itself became a very different kind of home. Sigh. All things, it seems, have a time and purpose under heaven.
Letting go outcomes, timeframes, agendas, no small order of the spiritual journey. But oh, so freeing and caring for the tender heart and very real ego, and loving spirit.
Be loving and kind to yourself, gentle friend. Carol
Letting go th

Jo Hayward-Haines said...

It's not just a time of transition for people at George Street United - it's a pivotal moment in the life of the species.Either we use our God-given gifts of consciousness and compassion to act responsibly and creatively to solve the environmental, economic and social problems we've caused - or not. It's hard work, and it requires listening deeply, seeing from many angles and speaking truthfully, as far as we are able.Because we are essentially interconnected with all life we are also drawn to help each other. The efforts of the church to create real community are admirable in this context.

averagejo said...

I was surprised that the attendees at the voting session neither cheered or booed as the outcome was announced - 47 for the HUB, 30 opposed - or contra-minded as the saying goes. That fine spirit impressed me as much as the outcome.


sc pinney said...

Really good to hear your voice here, Al. I love it. It's bright, searching, hoping for good, but not pushing to hard for it.
G-d bless.