The last few days have been good and productive and I continue to learn more about myself, St. Mark’s by-the-Lake, and the benefits of our long-term pastorate together. As a people of God together, it is clear that we can do far more in a healthy long term relationship. Churches that have to contend with rapid turnover of clergy tend to have challenges in moving forward. This is no secret to the people of our parish. This morning Ed White has been walking us through an extensive bibliography that outlines much of what he has been sharing over these past three great days.

I have heard a lot about discipleship versus membership. It has been good to hear because it has reinforced the direction in which we are moving as a congregation. Hear this from Power Surge: Six Mark’s of Discipleship for a Changing Church, a book by Michael Foss. “Discipleship congregations are willing to adopt a governance system that authorizes rather than gets in the way of disciples in mission. In many congregations this means replacing the council-committee structure with a board-ministry team structure.”   

It is clear to me that we are a discipleship church and to varying degrees we are embracing the idea of team ministry. This past year we moved to change even the board to a Parish Leadership Team. This Leadrship Team has members from the parsih who understand discipleship including team captains from the many different ministry teams in the church. Many of us are yet unaware that we have even adopted this model and I think we need to educate further – but we are clearly on the right path. In hearing and reading this week about churches that have moved from membership to discipleship, I have seen the characteristics of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake again and again.

Ed White compiled a list of of desireable outcomes in transforming self centered lives to lives that are God Ceetered (Discipleship). This list is invaluable to a community like ours. Here are six statements from this morning’s session that reaffirm our church as a discipleship church – in no particular order. (These are six out of 33 statements – I can share more of these at a later time) 

  1. “Strangers and newcomers will experience ‘consistent hospitality’ in our church. Our capacity to appreciate and relate to people from other cultures and backgrounds will be increased.”
  2.  “Members will understand and support the work of such agencies as Heiffer Project, Save a Family Plan, Bread for the Worlds, etc that are combating hunger, poverty, and disease around the world. Members will advocate for efforts to end world hunger and combat the spread of AIDS.”   
  3.  “In order to worship in a manner pleasing to God we will have learned the hymns and to sing them with energy.”
  4. “Children who grow up in this congregation will become youth and young adults who understand and are committed to the life of discipleship.”
  5. “Members from different generations will understand and value one another.”
  6. "All will discover that the Christian life is a shared journey and not just membership in an organization called congregation. They will experience that as we worship, learn and work together, God transforms us, and that we grow emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually as followers of Jesus."

And my journey continues. Thanks parish for your discipleship. I can’t write too much more – I need to be back to the class! 

Thank you Alban and Ed White for a great workshop!

PS – When we finished we took the afternoon to see some of St. Louis and we loved all that we were able to experience. We had a great visit to Forest Park. At 1,293 acres, it is approximately 500 acres larger than Central Park in New York and is one of the largest parks in North America. While there we visited the St. Louis Museum of Art. It was a great thrill to be in the presence of original Monet, Remmington, and Van Gough. The best part was having people to enjoy it with. We enjoyed getting to know Peter and Karen, our new Presbyterian friends from Syracuse NY. We enjoyed time and we enjoyed getting to know other passionate disciples. I have long held that as benificial as the course work may be – one of the greatest parts of all of these events are the connections we make with others who journey on this road. Today we were thrilled to get to know two of those people a little bit more. C.S Lewis offered this; "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You, too? Thought I was the only one." That is the great gift of Alban events. We get to give birth to friendships in the shadow of shared experiences.

Our day was not complete until we took a night drive around this beautiful place. There are over 200 acres here at Our Lady of the Snows. There is a load of wild life. We looked into the eyes of at least seven deer. We were so close to them I swear that we could smell them. Catherinanne took some great photos – surprise, surprise! This has been a good event indeed! This has been a good day, indeed!