November 15, 2019
Canon Anna Carmichael
As I write this, I’m on a brief break between sessions at the Genesis Conference. On Monday, Deacon Nancy Key, Deacon Terrance Goodpasture, Wilson Colon and I traveled to a very cold, but beautiful Birmingham Alabama. Along the way, in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, we met up with our friend and colleague in ministry, the Rev. Samuel Borbon.
On Tuesday morning we officially began the conference, which is focused on church planting. Now friends, I must confess…I have no idea what people mean when they say “church planting”. I had some pre-existing ideas, but I came to this conference to learn from the wisdom in the room. Some of you may be thinking “church planting” is about starting a new congregation in a building that looks and acts and feels like church in really traditional ways. Some of you may be thinking “church planting” is about starting a new ministry that connects with marginalized communities in ways we haven’t before. And some of you may be thinking that “church planting” is a way to try out something new…churches that do Beyonce Mass or Theology on Tap or some other expression of something cool that appeals to the younger crowds. The fact is that “church planting” is all of that plus more.
So one of the pieces of work of this conference was to acknowledge that we don’t have a one-size fits all definition of “church planting”. And admittedly, sometimes that was hard for us to let go of our preconceived notions and be open to the Holy Spirit and the ways in which She moves in our communities.
The team from San Joaquin has been identified by the bishop’s office as the “Latino Ministry Core Team,” and includes Dean Ryan Newman and Rev. Luis Rodriguez. This core team will support our Latino Missioner in their work in the diocese. The Missioner, in conjunction with the core team, will not only re-establish the Spanish language congregation at the Cathedral, but they serve as a resource to the diocese as a whole; part of our work is to help congregations discern and begin to live into the ways in which they may be called to do Latino Ministry in their context. For example, in the coming days, you’ll hear about the Posada that Rev. Luis is planning in Bakersfield, and he will be able to support your congregation if they feel called to do something similar in their context.
So our team is here to learn “best practices,” to talk in real time about funding issues and grants, to talk with experts in certain types of ministries, and to share ideas. On Wednesday afternoon we were able to meet with others who do Latino Ministry, share the joys and challenges, and learn about more resources available to us for this ministry. One of the heartbreaking stories shared was from a priest who is serving as a chaplain in Juarez, Mexico and the struggles of refugees at the border seeking asylum. And another was a small congregation of Venezuelan refugees who support their brothers and sisters back in their “home diocese” by sending packages of basic medical supplies and other needed materials. The congregation turns over every six months as the refugees are resettled and join up with families in the US, and yet their mission is clear.
And it was in this context of “church planting” that we talked about AWE, “Average Weekly Engagement,” because the work they’re doing and the lives and hearts that are transformed by their ministry doesn’t always get reflected on parochial reports and other metric systems established by institutions. We in San Joaquin know all about limited resources and yet that doesn’t inhibit or tamper our passion for ministry…we are an entire diocese of “church planting”! I have been so proud, honored and humbled to be a part of the conversation taking place this week and representing our corner of the Kingdom of God.
So here’s my big take-away from this conference…be willing to take risks and dream big! When we do ministry from a place of love, a place of curiosity, and the desire to share the gospel, then we can be brave and risk trying something. This means that sometimes we will “fail,” sometimes we will “succeed,” AND God will be with us all the way.