St. John’s Episcopal Church, Beltsville, MD is proud to participate in the Tending Our Soil (TOS) initiative. Our mission statement reads, “To share God’s love with everyone to bring hope and change lives.” The TOS initiative has challenged us to examine the relevancy and message conveyed by this important statement.
The Unstuck Church assessment helps us to see where St. John’s is situated in the life cycle of the church. The results identified that we have a focused vision and strategy and that we embrace the tension between vision and systems. In this context, systems can be defined as a way to love people better. This includes providing a variety of opportunities for members to enhance their discipleship on their spiritual journey. While we strive to nurture a culture of radical hospitality, the TOS initiative has revealed the need to be more intentional in connecting visitors and new members to the life of the parish.
The TOS initiative affirms our mission to be intentional in sharing the “Good News of Jesus Christ” to a wider community by providing each parish with a demographic report, targeting nonmembers, in a defined area, from the MissionInsite Program. Lab presentations focused on questions of how is God calling us to address cultural shifts in a post-Christian world? Who are our neighbors? Who are we trying to reach?
The TOS initiative includes a trained coach to engage as a creative conversation partner, as we discern concrete actions in implementing our vision. We hope to find creative ways to empower our members to use their leadership skills to support the mission of the church. At this point in our life cycle, we need a way forward that is organic, and the TOS initiative is providing us with the tools to identify concrete actions to fulfill God’s mission and make room for others.
Our TOS Team meets monthly, engaging in prayer, bible study, and sharing our individual spiritual autobiographies. We are learning more about each other and the points of connections in our lives. We are working on our congregational project of Telling the Story of St. John’s using the article, “The Soul of the Congregation.”
As we encounter the community, we look forward to discovering new ways to engage in God’s mission, knowing that the mission of God is Christ “Himself.” We will open the door of our hearts to genuinely extend an invitation to our neighbors, wherever they are in their Christian journey, and however different their journey is from ours.
The Rev. Joseph
Rector, St. John’s, Beltsville