Living Between "Either" and "Or"
Often the world seems like a stark series of either/or events. It is either feast or famine. It is either win or lose. It is either yes or no.
Yet, last week while serving as part of a panel on “Caring for the Ministry of Small Churches: Yoking, Fellowships, and other tough ideas to thrive in ministry” I was reminded that at least as often we live in the middle between feast and famine. The panel acknowledged the challenges and difficulties that small congregations often face from limited resources (people, money, etc.), and the panel also explored the creative and empowering ways that congregations have moved beyond these limitations.
Many of the examples that were shared are being lived out by congregations within our presbytery who have moved forward in creative ways to care for their neighbors. Small congregations who are sharing a full-time pastor who neither would be able to support individually. Small congregations who have partnered with congregations in other denominations to establish a new community of faith in a federated congregation. Small congregations who instead of focusing on what they are not able to do, see the possibilities for meeting the needs of those around them in new ways.
The commonality in these examples is the amount of time and work required to bring them to reality. The most recent yoked and federated relationships in our presbytery began as informal conversations long before the more than a year of journeying through relationship building and logistics necessary to “officially” establish the new relationship. Plus, even more time and effort that has followed to become what they said they are on paper. Even with these challenges, new possibilities full of opportunities were opened as congregations were re-energized for ministry and realized that they had more resources than they had feared. They can meet the challenges by embracing both gifts and limitations with creativity. We might not be able to do everything that we want to do, but we can do so much more than we fear is possible when we look past the false dichotomies and see possibilities in the middle space.
Having a vision that was beyond a focus on either feast or famine empowered and inspired these congregations (in our presbytery and in many others) to explore new things and move forward in new directions of worshipping God and serving God’s people. Please join me in exploring the possibilities: What would it look like to move beyond the “either/or” in your life and in your ministry?
As we wrestle with challenges and opportunities, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you today, tomorrow, and always.
Grace and peace, Bill Rev. William "Bill" McLean, II Presbyter for Congregational Care Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois