There are many times when we have no idea how to meet the needs of those around us. At the recent Missional Voices 2019 conference at Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans, several members of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast attended to learn from church leaders how they are addressing missional needs in their communities in innovative ways. Diocesan staff members, the Rev. Kammy Young and Jenn Johnson; and Province IV and diocesan United Thank Offering representative, Joyce Landers were in attendance.
The focus of the conference was Resilience: God's Mission on Difficult Times. The first day offered a plenary from Episcopal Relief and Development where attendees were ask to think about their organizations gifts in the context of their community; then, to think about the needs of their community and how their gifts applied to the need. The activities were meant to show that organizations and congregations have unique abilities to serve their communities, but are not meant to meet every need - but, also, sometimes we have to stretch ourselves outside of our comfort zone to get creative and learn new ways of doing ministry.
The initial day's activity set the tone for the remaining conference which also offered six personal stories of mission from various presenters who shared their work (watch the livestream here); and continued into the final day with workshops to help attendees learn new skills to go out into the world to serve others. Posted below, the Rev. Kammy Young shares some of her takeaways from the conference.
All resources and presentations from the conference can be found at www.missionalvoices.com.
From the Rev. Kammy Young
“What is innovation? A solution to a person’s unmet need." That phrase seems so simple, but when it was presented to us at Missional Voices 2019, I realized that the implications can have a profound impact on our life together in the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast.
We are famous for the wisdom and beauty of our Anglican tradition. But I believe theologian L. Gregory Jones, dean of Duke Divinity School, is on target when he maintains that Christian leaders need not choose between tradition and innovation. It’s crucial for us to have a way of living that holds both in order for the ongoing vitality and growth of our congregations.
Traditioned innovation is the term that the Faith & Leadership folks have been using to describe this way of being church. And Lorenzo Lebrija gave us some amazing examples of it in his presentation: Welcome to the Try Tank! When several of us from the Diocese of Central Gulf Coast attended his workshop, How to Innovate in YOUR Church, he highlighted what seems to me to be one of the biggest challenges for us in the church: “It’s easier to make things people want than to make people want things... guess what church does?” Instead of us as churches guessing at what people want and need or trying to “make” other people want what the church is offering, he guides people to try listening more deeply and very specifically for the needs of God’s people outside our churches and to find ways that we naturally and authentically can speak to those needs and desires.
Missional Voices 2019 has a host of resources to share, from Digital Storytelling to a model for discerning your congregations gifts to meet community needs, whether its in the wake of a disaster like Hurricane Michael, or in everyday 21st century life where resilience is required to simply “be” the church! And getting clearer about our gifts as the church isn’t enough, as we were reminded, “It’s not a gift unless you’re willing to share it.”
United Thank Offering partnered with the Missional Voices' 2019 National Gathering at Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans and as a 2019 UTO Grant Award partner, we were also invited to participate in their pre-conference event Raising Grateful Voices. I couldn’t help but think of the congregations in our diocese who’ve suffered the effects of Hurricane Michael, as the keynote speaker, Connie Uddo, executive director of St. Paul’s Homecoming Center, shared her story of being overwhelmed and depressed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but somehow through reading a psalm and reflection in her daily meditation for God to help her find her purpose and connecting with her local Episcopal church, she went on to be on the front lines of hurricane recovery since 2006.
I’m especially grateful for the UTO workshops Empowering Grateful Voices in Children, led by Heather Melton – Presiding Bishop’s Staff Officer for UTO and her twin children, Carrie and Lucy; and Inspiring Gratitude through Preaching or Presenting, led by the Rev. Dr. Micah T.J. Jackson. Once again, I am reminded how clearly our calling to spread gratitude in this world is the desperately needed antidote to so much of what ails us all!
Photo above: Tamara Plummer of Episcopal Relief and Development talks about various ways to assess gifts and needs. Photo credit: Missional Voices