Advent can be a great exploration of the nature of leadership in times of change. Take the image of the Stump of Jesse (or the shoot of Jesse depending …). Something is dying in a big way. The tree has been felled, only a stump remains. Yet, in God’s grace something new, fragile and vital, some greening edge is also arising. Light in darkness, birth, all these images help us understand what a colleague said of her ministry recently, “I don’t know if it’s killing me or saving me.”
When transformational leadership is done well it can, at points, be a little unclear whether it’s killing us or saving us, killing the congregation/ministry or saving it. A little destabilization is often needed for change to come. Like pushing a car out of a rut, you push a little, then let it come back. You push again, further this time, and let it come back. If you just keep pushing, you never get over the hump. It’s finding a rhythm that can destabilize the status quo and timing is everything. Hope is that either way, killing or saving, God is prime actor, and resurrection is the promise.
Blessings for Christmas.
The EDGE Team
It’s been an amazing year of growth and engagement for EDGE. We are currently working in consultative relationships with over 50 congregations in independent contracts across the church. At the same time we are engaged in some very exciting renewal projects that engage entire regions with Living Water’s Presbytery and Bay of Quinte Conference. We really commend the intentionality of Living Waters and Bay of Quinte to focus resources on regional renewal strategies since renewal can be tough and often lonely work. Working together is working better. In a way our work key work is to connect with and connect together co-conspirators in the new church God is raising up… hear the testimonies of those we have already encountered.
Special Projects this year:
- Destination Greenbelt: Moderator’s Pilgrimage – We partnered with our Moderator, the United Church Foundation, and The Observer 114 leaders (50 of whom were under 40) attended the Greenbelt Festival in the UK. We became notorious as “The Canadians” in both the festival and Cheltenham. The participants continue to meet in learning Cohorts and are already planning ways to engage our church back home with the energy and creativity of the 100s of workshops, global leaders, and 20,000 participants we encountered there. Here are some snippets – a compilation of the experience in a video by Dick Prince.
- Comprehensive Review Consultation: EDGE has been engaged to implement the Comprehensive Review Consultations with pastoral charges and other groups. While the project has been a logistical challenge it has been a great privilege to connect with and hear the experience, insights and hopes of so many grass roots United Church people. Thank you to all those who are participating and helping especially our Group Leaders and Facilitators! For those waiting for their interview, please have patience. If you are not sure you are in the queue feel free to contact us directly.
New at the EDGE:
- Property Team: Edge has brought together a team with expertise in Real Estate, Property Development, and Missional Renewal to assist the nearly one third of congregations who will be considering sale or redevelopment of their property in the short term. Engaging the this resource provides free property assessments, assistance in applying for CHMC grants and most importantly a way to ensure property development fosters renewed mission and congregational health as well as financial sustainability.
- Buying United: Microsoft Office now FREE for United Church congregations! Engaging the power of community EDGE has already saved ministries across the church over $100,000 through everything from grants (100% for summer students), to discounts on solar panels, carpet, office supplies, energy, Good Life memberships (50% off for United Church Staff) and more. This is freeing up resources for new and vital ministry!
For a conversation about how EDGE can help you and your congregation/ministry, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Executive Director of EDGE
The growing number of you who have connected with EDGE’s work will know that the rich new frontier for ministry is our daily bread. Transformational leaders today are pioneers of ministry in a new landscape.
The good news: The outcomes for ministries who are able to really engage the few (but essential) principles which reincarnate the gospel in post-modern culture are remarkable.
It is true people are deeply yearning for the connection, belonging, grounding, wisdom, justice and hope that life in Christ offers. It’s clear, but it’s not easy. We can get there together. Making that journey, together, is the purpose that has driven EDGE to create a network of consultants across the country, develop learning cohorts to nurture missional leaders, gather and train coaches for leaders seeking to excel in missional, transformational leadership, and make cutting edge ideas accessible through 3 webinars a month. That is what inspired our partnership with Moderator Gary Paterson to imagine Destination Greenbelt. And we are hearing regularly about the impact of this kind of collaboration for the turning of ministries.
“St. Mark’s is extremely pleased with the consultation provided by [Edge Consultant] Rev. Russ. With his help, we are off to a solid start in transforming and growing our congregation in the coming months and years. Should you have other churches interested in the services of the EDGE group in this area, please feel free to refer them to me and I will relate our very positive experience.” Chair of the Board, St. Mark’s United Church, Saint John
We have also had the privilege of working with and fostering new ministries, fresh expressions of church from Yoga Chapel to Intentional Communities, to music schools that connect music with spiritual expression with community with worship. It’s amazing! You can see just a few of the vital and emerging ministries that God is raising up for a new day in this video.
That is our frontier or “outside” pioneering work.
Jonny Baker also talks about the need for ‘inside’ pioneers. These are people working within the church structures to advocate, make space for, and support the “outside” pioneers to explore the opportunities God is setting before us. Some distinguish these as “modal” vs. “sodal” forms of mission. The work of these ‘inside’ pioneers is to help move towards a careful and principled loosening of the structures in order to make space for experimentation, learning, leaps of faith into new territory. Sometimes this means advocating for new ministry leaders feeling called to other than “traditional looking” ministries, sometimes it means claiming the space that already exists within our polity or exploring new policy, sometimes it means fostering a culture of “Yes and” rather than, a culture of “No, unless…” which often accompanies a time of fear about the future. We’ve got to stop “shoulding” ourselves to death and beating each other up. Lets’ celebrate innovation, enjoy our curiosity and learn from our experiments. Measurement and evaluation is key to this learning. This inside pioneering is something we can all be about in the places where we are planted. Edge has recently being called more formally into “inside” pioneering as we have worked with GCO Units and with the Comprehensive Review Task Group to consult with faith communities across the church.
Inside or out, Edge is looking for allies to proclaim an alternative narrative about these times, one that attends with awe to what God is doing, right now, right here.
Executive Director of EDGE
The Comprehensive Review Process – Yes we can!
Buying United – Just how much United Churches have saved by working together!
The Power of Network
Destination Greenbelt – Greenbelt Canada? 2017?
Living Waters Presbytery, north of Toronto, is very pleased to report on the success of this new strategy. During the last year we developed a programme in partnership with EDGE, working closely with Rob Dalgleish and Lesley Harrison.
During last winter we held several sessions with Presbytery Reps to demonstrate the potential and to iron out any issues. There was very strong support and so we moved forward.
Throughout May, EDGE ran a series of Vision Days for congregations, to provide both context of where we are today and the need to look for new ways of “being Church”. We also provided an invitation for a facilitated process and tools that would be customized to the individual requirements of each congregation. Living Waters committed to provide 2/3 of the funding cost of this program. 65 people attended these sessions from 26 congregations.
We are now excitedly moving forward in 16 congregations, with initial discussions with Transition Teams and meetings with congregations, to provide the context and then to move into the tough but wonderful work of reshaping the many aspects of church life.
We are very pleased that EDGE brings its national perspective and wonderful examples of great things that are happening across Canada and elsewhere in the world. There is nothing but positive response to the caring professionalism of the planning and facilitation team,
We know that as the success of the process becomes clear, many other congregations will follow in awakening their collective and individual Spiritual Abundance.
Terry Davies, Chair of Vision & Church Development Commission
**Bold spoken words, Italicized actions**
Honouring that which is most Holy
(hands together in prayer mode in front of the heart)
Accept from me
(gradually open hands and raise arms above head in prayer gesture)
The spirit of my soul
(bring hands facing forward together over head so that the little fingers link together. This forms a kind of butterfly or spirit symbol. Draw this “butterfly” down to the heart as you say “soul”. This sounds harder to do than it actually is.)
I place it in this vessel
(hands come down to abdominal level and form a cup container-feel the weight of the offering it contains)
And offer it up
(raise the hand container slowly and intentionally above the head as an offering to God)
Pour down your gentle blessing upon me
(Open hands, turn palms with fingers open backwards as you move fingers in rain-like movement down to your shoulders)
As I stand before you with an open heart
(Open hands, palms forward moved to sides in a “stick ‘em-up” movement – an attitude of surrender and openness)
Bless my mind that it may think with clarity and wisdom
(hands touch the head)
Bless my eyes that they may see beauty and truth around me
Bless my ears that they may hear the pain and joy of life
Bless my mouth that it may speak your truth
Bless my heart that I may have the passion and compassion to respond
Bless my whole body that it may be a temple of your Spirit
(one hand on heart, another on abdomen)
Bless my hands that they may touch life with tenderness and healing
Bless my feet that they may root me to the earth and carry me where you would have me go
(reach out towards feet, not necessarily touching)
Bless my soul that it may always join me to your Love and to the world You created and love
(raise hands in a straight line through the centre of the body above the head, then open them outwards to make a circle as you say the words. At the end reach out to take the hand of the person on either side of you if you are doing this in a group)
Sharon Moon, 2012
Many traditions use a simple meditative experience that involves walking intentionally present to the moment. Walking meditation involves mindful walking; bringing awareness to the feeling of the feet as they touch the earth or floor; being aware of the movement of the body as it walks. It is about being intentionally in the experience of the moment. Most of us spend the largest part of our lives distanced from the experience of being fully present; to our selves; to our world; to the nudging of God’s Spirit.
Walking meditation can be done anywhere; on the street, in the corridors where you work, in a park. It can also be done in a labyrinth. Labyrinths have become more commonly used in our congregations over the past ten years. There are vast resources on labyrinths in libraries, but particularly on the web. A place to start is www.gracecathedral.org/labyrinth/ An internet search will bring rich reading about not only creating, but also using labyrinths for walking meditation.
One can walk a question; a feeling; a struggle; a grief process; a scripture; or really any kind of spiritual work. Or one can simply walk with an openness to listen for God, and a desire to be fully present in the moment.
If you do not have access to a labyrinth, a simple way to introduce people to walking meditation is to invite them to a time of mindful relaxation and silence.
I often use a simple line from a psalm, or other scripture as a mantra for centering and focus. The line from scripture takes on new nuances and meanings as one walks intentionally with it. At times one word may jump out more powerfully than the others. Simply allow the experience to open you to the nudging of God’s Spirit.
OPENING TO GOD IN CREATION (a simple walking meditation)
Close your eyes … Become aware of this body-self that is you, as you come to meditation today … Focus on your breath … Notice the pattern of your breathing … as it moves in … as it moves out … Notice how fast are you breathing … Notice whether you are breathing deeply or shallowly … Notice where your body moves when you breathe … Is the movement in your chest, or in your belly?..
Watch your breathing for a few minutes and notice any changes that occur … You may find that just attending to your breath will allow you to relax … As you focus and breathe let your breaths become slower and deeper … Let your body relax and move to a sense of peace …
Notice where your body is sore or tense … Imagine the breath moving to that place … and gently massaging the tightened knots of tension … or fear … or anger … Simply allow the breath to open up your body so that your life energy can flow freely … You are preparing yourself for prayer …
As you focus on your breathing … you may notice thoughts coming and going … Just notice the thoughts, and then let them go … You may want to imagine them as clouds floating across the horizon, or have some other image that allows you to let them go … As thoughts arise, gently return your focus to your breath … Notice the space that opens inside you as you relax … as you gradually come into your sacred centre …
Ask God to bless your walking meditation and to use it for your highest good of mind, body and spirit … As you walk, I invite you to allow the following scripture to resonate in your mind … in your body … in your spirit … and in your experience.
CHOOSE ANY ONE OF THE FOLLOWING SCRIPTURES, OR ANY OTHER SHORT SCRIPTURE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE THE GROUP TO FOCUS ON. REPEAT IT ABOUT 5 TIMES SLOWLY, THEN ALLOW THE GROUP TO GET UP AND MOVE.
“The earth is full of your goodness, O God.” Ps. 33:5
” You show me the path of life, O God. In your presence there is fullness of joy.” Ps. 16:11
“Be still and know that I am God.” Ps. 46:10
” You turn a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. Ps. 107:35
“Lead me in your truth and teach me for you are the God of my salvation (healing wholeness).” Ps 25:5
“O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” Ps 104:24
“I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly” John 10:10
“With you is the fountain of life.” Ps 36:9
“It was you, O God, who made my inmost self, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Ps 139:13-14
Sharon Moon, July 2012
As the temperatures soar, vacations and stay-cations are planned and taken, and lazy days loom, EDGE staff and consultants will be keeping busy throughout August.
Joining with commissioners, guests, and other UCC staff, EDGE will be present at the 41st General Council in Ottawa from August 11 – 18. Rob Dalgleish and Lesley Harrison will be on site, speaking with those attending from across Canada, showcasing all that EDGE has to offer to congregations large and small, rural and urban, presbyteries, conferences, ordered ministers and lay leaders, and everything in between. If you’ll be attending General Council this year, please stop by the EDGE table, or find Rob and Lesley throughout the event and during open time to chat and ask questions about how vital ministry can be part of your context.
Switchings gears from Ottawa to Cheltenham, England, EDGE staff together with 18 coaches and consultants from across Canada, will be the UCC contingent attending the Greenbelt festival, where arts, faith, and justice collide. Greenbelt began in 1974 as ‘The Nice People’s Pop Festival’, and it is now a “collision of the arts, faith and justice. Engaged with culture, inspired by the arts, sustained by faith, we aspire to be an open, generous community, reimagining the Christian narrative for the present moment.”
While in England, EDGE will be visiting a variety of Fresh Expressions ministries, learning from and meeting artists, thinkers, activists and people of passion. To find out more about what EDGE will be experiencing, you can find out more about Greenbelt on their website or from their official Twitter account and Facebook page..
To keep track of EDGE throughout the summer, be sure to follow us on Twitter @edge_ucc, as well as the hashtags for General Council (#GC41) and Greenbelt (#GB12). We’ll be sure to keep our Facebook page up to date with photos and anecdotes as well. We’d love for you to follow along with our adventures, and join in the conversation with us!
Combining our prayers with our breath is one of the simplest and most profound ways of “praying constantly in the Spirit”. Breath and spirit are deeply connected in scripture. In Hebrew the word rauch is translated as “wind,” “breath,” and “spirit.” “In the beginning”, it was this wind/breath of God that breathed over chaos creating life. Adamah, created from dust only came alive when the breath of God brought life to human beings. In John’s gospel, Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into the despondent disciples, reminiscent of the breath from the four directions that breathed life and connection into the valley of dry bones in the ancient story from Ezekiel.
In a culture that forgets to breathe, we often use only the very top part of our lungs. We take breath for granted as we take spiritual life for granted. One of the most simple but profound spiritual prayers we can practice is breath prayer.
Breath prayer works with the rhythm of the breath and creates a mantra-like prayer. The “Jesus Prayer” is perhaps the best known and widely practiced of these. (Breath in “Lord Jesus Christ” breath out “ have mercy on me”)
However we can choose any phrase or affirmation that calls to our soul, and connects with our spiritual longing whether it is biblical or not.
“Be still and know” (on the breath in)
“that I am God” (on the breath out)
“I am worthy” (on the breath in)
“I release fear” (on the breath out)
“I am healing” (on the breath in)
“I rest in God” (on the breath out)
“Ground me God” (on the breath in)
“in your grace” (on the breath out)
“Holy One” (on the breath in)
“breathe through me” (on the breath out)
Be still and listen to the longings of your own soul and create the prayer that connects with the rhythm of your own soul, and of your own breath. It will centre you in the presence of the Holy right in the centre of your own life and challenges.
Sharon Moon, May 2012
Phyllis Tickle – Key Note Speaker at More than Franchises
With a delightful, dynamic & engaging style Phyllis shares insights and hope from her work The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why. With energy and passion that captures imaginations Phyllis talks about her awareness that every 500 years the church has a rummage sale and gets rid of all the things it has collected over the years that are not worth carrying into the future. We are at the end of one of those 500 year cycles.
On the flap of her book cover Phyllis is described as
“an internationally renowned expert on religion … [who] has incisive perspective on the trends and transformations of our time…. She invites us into a conversation as she shares her reflections stemming from not only personal faith but also decades of observation and analysis. The result is a work that meets the challenge of chronicling a pivotal time in the church’s history so we might better understand where we have been and what the future holds. Tickle clearly lays out the gradual steps leading up to this transformation, including the influences and effects of Darwin, Freud, Einstein, the automobile and technological advances. She then sets her sights on where we’re going, leaving us with a vision of an exciting future for the Church.”
Check out details at www.morefranchises.ca