The Tending Our Soil initiative lends itself to gardening images –and for me as a coach, this year has been an opportunity to visit, explore, admire, and help cultivate three amazing gardens I have never before been privileged to see in depth and up close. What a gift to me as an individual it is to walk alongside the congregational teams and help them with their plans, their successes, their dreams for the years to come! And what a blessing this initiative is to the congregations, all of whom get to see their strengths and challenges set against a national and a regional backdrop, with data to give them perspective and ideas for new approaches that they can discuss with their cohort colleagues!
The three congregations I am blessed to coach — Church of the Ascension, Silver Spring; Christ Church La Plata/Wayside, and Transfiguration, Silver Spring — have spent the last few months assembling their teams, answering surveys, and beginning to absorb a truly prodigious amount of data and statistics about their individual parishes in comparison to national trends in spirituality, missional alignment, dynamic relationships, and cultural openness. Their energy, focus, courage, and commitment are astounding, especially considering that these same congregational leaders are leading their parishes through the liturgical seasons of a chaotic pandemic year. I feel privileged to share in their joy as they hear their parishes’ strengths, and I admire their courage as they plan how to tackle the challenges of growth and mission. My job is to help them discern how to move ahead, and they make every step a joy as we learn together.
Everywhere I hear of new life in our diocese, as churches adapt and adjust to an ever-changing worship environment — Zoom, outdoor services, indoor services, hybrid services — and newcomers continue to find our churches, whether online or in person. And now, as the church begins its New Year with the Advent season, the Tending Our Soil teams will lead their congregations through a parish storytelling exercise to help them see where they have been and where God is calling them to go. I’m excited to hear their stories. I look forward to reflecting with them on the next steps for increasing openness and commitment to mission. And my hope and prayer for them is that these exercises will help newcomers and long-timers alike find inspiration for building on their strengths and issuing the timeless call to welcome the stranger and to spread the Good News.
Parishioner at Grace, Silver Spring and Tending Our Soil Coach