This is my fourth year at Nextchurch, a conference which often has a pulse on where the church is right now. The conference this year focused on Division and Reconciliation with its theme of “Walls and Wells” based upon the “Woman at the Well” scripture. (Great links to most of this were provided in Tim Coomb’s blog)
I go to Nextchurch to be energized in ministry, hear excellent preaching and partake of workshops of what many churches are doing in their contexts. Also, often times good framings and language to name where the church is, and why that is a constant of the conference. Full disclosure this year I went as a Panelist about the Farmer’s Market to talk about out of the Box Ministries. (I think the panel went well.)
In addition to the keynote speakers focusing on reconciliation, racial disparity, the building of community between police and neighborhoods and the sanctuary movement one resounding theme was the world in which we live will no longer be white, and white churches will need to die. Whether they resurrect as more diverse churches is the real question. Young families are no longer the unicorn of survival, diversity has become the newly awakened goal.
Tools to pursue such ministry were well provided in my first workshop Indecent and In Order, lead by Larissa Kwong Abazia and Wilson Kennedy. In it we utilized the MIF questions to creatively draw out what our church leadership (re: NOT the pastor) needs to be in order to create the church community God is calling us to be. I found this process to be fresh and inciteful, a way to not only talk about the church’s vision, but to talk about how to create that vision through building leadership. This obviously dovetailed well with our need for diversity.
I then went to a workshop about the General Assembly level committee of the Way Forward Committee, where we are trying to vision and restructure the church on a greater level. This committee is doing a general listening session study (mostly through electronic means) to try to understand where the church is and what God is calling us to be. This committee is a diverse group trying to hear where we are and where we are going firstname.lastname@example.org is the email address to participate.
My final workshop was about yoga as a spiritual practice, which is something I do. I found this workshop to be almost exclusively white women who are trying to reach out to millennials/nones/dones practice other types of healing. It made me think hard about who we are trying to attract. I also continue to reflect that the Presbyterian Church is trying to move towards a more (w)holistic model of ministry. I find that most new ministries fall into the categories of:
- ancient practices renewed: mediation, prayer, song, etc
- mind and body connection: sweatysheep, crossfit, yoga
- food: ugly food, pay what you can cafes, healthy eating, community gardens, farmers market, etc.
- arts: painting, coloring, knitting, maker shops, etc.
It’s interesting to me that this is the current trend/phenomenon as new ministry avenues are pursued.
I recommend Nextchurch, which has recently become part and parcel with the mainstream experience of the Presbyterian Church. The workshops are at the best when they provide tools and hands on interactions, fostering community and hope for those of us at ministry.