Saturday morning we carpooled with a group of parishioners to attend a conference on best church practices. It’s a wonder we made it. I hit “Snooze” once too often, but that in itself would not have been a problem. Losing a temporary dental crown in the middle of my breakfast toast, having to find the cement the dentist gave me, mixing and spreading cement and replacing the tooth—well that took a little more time. As my husband drove us to pick up a parishioner, I worked at getting rid of all the excess cement that I had everywhere from the crown in question to my fingers, cheeks and chin. Finishing that task, I glanced around and said: “You do know we’re going to Yellow Springs for Barbara, don’t you?”
Apparently I hadn’t made that clear because that wasn’t at all where we were headed. Taking an unknown side road that seemed to lead in the right direction, we eventually landed at Barbara’s house, picked her up and proceeded to the conference in a torrential downpour. We arrived just after the end of the opening meditation and made our way to the (of course!) very front of the room where our parish table was located. The day provided proof that good things are sometimes demanding of our efforts, our patience, and our frustration threshold!
There was a great deal of conversation about renewing and reinvigorating churches in decline. Probably most of the churches represented there were in decline, so the conversation was robust, the presenter entertaining and knowledgeable, and the sharing important and affirming for all of us.
A couple of things stood out for me, and I’ll share the first one here. The speaker shared a time-honoredSilicone Valley adage: “Failing often = succeeding sooner.” In other words, if you’re aren’t failing you aren’t risking. Living life with no risk means living at a margin of safety that does not allow for the movement of the Spirit, renewal, or growth.
The fact that there were eight of us there from Christ Church, Xenia was a pretty good indication that some of our people were open to thinking about safety and risk, the Spirit and (small “t”) tradition. I hadn’t planned on attending this conference, but two parishioners asked me about it and that was enough interest to move forward. We are a small church, with about 41 people in attendance on an average Sunday. We’re more than “graying”, most of us; we’re “grayed!” But there is a bright and strong spark of willingness to go where God leads, and God can do a great deal with just that much. I am looking forward to seeing how many failures we can accumulate to reach whatever our success might look like.