From Deacon Candidate
St. James Cathedral, Fresno
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a conference with two other Deacons in process along with our Canon. Canon Anna, Tom Hampson, Wilson Colon and I, all traveled to Los Angeles to attend an ABCD training through the office of ERD (Episcopal Relief and Development). ABCD is short for Asset Based Community Development.
An Asset-Based Approach to Engaging Church and Community is centered around the belief that individuals, groups, and communities have the gifts they need to address the needs they see around them. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us that each of us are given different gifts to serve the community and we are all a part of the body of Christ working together.
Throughout the four days of our training we learned how to help communities discern their gifts from God and how those gifts can be used to the benefit of all. It is a means to sustainable development that stems from a focus on strengths versus needs. In order to do this work, we have to be in partnership and engage with one another to work together and move from thinking that there is inadequacy in a community that they are unable to address to believing they have an abundance of gifts and strengths to address their needs. Asset based development encourages a community to share their passions, hopes, and dreams for their communities with the gifts (assets) around them. As a community of faith, we are called to move away from doing something “to” or “for” a community. We need to stop looking at the deficits of a community and instead ask what we all can gain by engaging with each other.
Since attending this training, I have been reflecting on the message we heard at our recent Diocesan Convention regarding The Way of Love. Presiding Bishop Curry has invited the whole church to take up The Way of Love, a “rule of life” focused on practices for a Jesus-Centered Life. Like the disciples, we are called by Jesus to follow the Way of Love. With God’s help, we can turn from the powers of sin, hatred, fear, injustice, and oppression toward the way of truth, love, hope, justice, and freedom. In turning, we reorient our lives to Jesus Christ, falling in love again, again, and again.
There are seven aspects to this practice:
TURN Pause, listen, and choose to follow Jesus
LEARN Reflect on Scripture each day, especially Jesus’ life and teachings
PRAY Dwell intentionally with God each day
WORSHIP Gather in community weekly to thank, praise, and draw near God
BLESS Share faith and unselfishly give and serve
GO Cross boundaries, listen deeply, and live like Jesus
REST Receive the gift of God’s grace, peace, and restoration
Focusing on the call to Learn, scripture teaches us that we are called by God to to be a blessing to all the world and we do this through love. By reflecting on scripture each day, we can see the many ways we are called to do this work. If we look at the Feeding of the Five Thousand from the gospels (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15), we can see how Jesus took the gifts the community had to offer and fed them all through this miracle. We as a community of God can perform miracles too. Notice Jesus did not tell the crowd what they needed, he asked them what they had to offer and used the “assets” of the community to feed them all.
We are called to move outside of our buildings and to help transform our communities through love. By grounding our work in scripture, it will guide us through this process and help us all stay centered and focused on discovering the assets we have to transform the world around us.
I would encourage you all to incorporate the following prayer into your prayer life and inwardly digest what it means for you to be a part of a community that is called to be a blessing to all the world.
The call to Abraham, the patriarch of faith, is the call extended to all humankind: Be a blessing to all the world. God told Abraham: “All the people of the earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3.) When we accept the call of God to be a blessing, we are blessed to be a distributor of the goodness of God. We are loved by God, and in turn we love; we are forgiven, and in turn we forgive; we are made whole, and in turn we make others whole. When we count our blessings it is the beginning of prayer, not the end. (Mark 12:31) We ask that God bless others not simply for their satisfaction and fulfillment, but so they can join in the blessing of others. May we live so that “All the people of the earth will be blessed through us.” From: A Prayer to Become a Blessing (From the book, Body Prayer, by Doug Pagitt, Kathryn Prill, and Colleen Shealer Olson)