“’Enthusiastic’ is the most common word I think I’ve heard in regard to people’s sharing about the congregation’s work (in answer to the first discussion question of the gathering).” Mission First! Project Coordinator Kenetha Stanton is hearing a lot of enthusiasm as she talks with hosts for the 56 Mission Gatherings that have occurred.
More than 2,000 Disciples have taken part in gatherings ranging in size from six to several hundred people. Disciples Women, youth, regional assemblies, special area gatherings and ethnic communities have all provided venues for talking about what matters most – God’s call on our lives. In the region of Georgia, more than 250 youth at camp participated, but also folks with 90 years of experience participated in the process.
“The conversations and sharing that took place in small groups during our NAPAD Convocation allowed people to speak about their hopes for the Church. People had the opportunity to convey what the needs are in their local communities and how the Church can be prophetic in its response,” shares Rev. April Lewton, National Benevolent Association Vice President for Development and Marketing who led the NAPAD gathering. “There was often a lot of shared laughter. Groups stopped to join in prayer over something, and people came away encouraged through their connections together.”
“We had the wonderful opportunity to host 11 Mission Gatherings throughout the state of Georgia.,” says Georgia Regional Minister Denise Bell, a member of the Mission First! Implementation Team. “I was never quite sure of what to expect except that each one would be different. Attendance ranged from 15 to 250 and we experienced the joy of sharing current mission stories and activities and dreaming about what courageous actions God has in mind for us in our general and regional church.”
Bell continues, “I heard comments like, ‘I wish all of our members were able to participate,’ and ‘This was a wonderful exercise, I did not know that all of this stuff was going on in our congregations. We care about our communities.’”
She reports that one gathering has already started a conversation between two racially different congregations to join ministry efforts in their community. “Every person left the gathering with a renewed hope about the church. Our dreams will discern a shared community day where every church at the same time will make a service investment in their community. We are already working on a shared mission project and ways to celebrate every congregations mission projects.”
More Mission Gatherings will be hosted across Disciples regions in the coming months with all the results poured into a report to the Mission Council meeting the first weekend in December. The report will be a combination of computer and human analysis of all the information received from all the mission gatherings. The Council will discern one or more themes for the Church to help focus our work together. In addition, the General Board, meeting in February, will discuss whether to formalize the governance changes piloted these past two years and present them to the 2017 General Assembly.