Monday, March 10, 2014

Leading and Anticipating CHANGE

On Sunday, together with members of our church council and some of my co-workers, I attended a synod event that laid the groundwork for a six-year initiative on hunger. Local hunger. The guest speaker has written a book called "Finding God in a Bag of Groceries" and she made some very important points about how we deal with hungry people. There were at least 200 people there, and Zumbro Lutheran, the church in Rochester that hosted us, pretty much let us take over their entire facility. We were greeted at the door by young people dressed as fruits and vegetables who were handing out packets of seed. Upon check-in each congregation was given and EFFA bag (Enough Food For All) filled with paperwork, a copy of the book, and a can of tuna. We were then welcomed by the Bishop and Synod Staff, heard Laura Willis, the author, speak, then were generously served coffee and home-made treats, and broke into groups for discussion of what and what more our congregations could be doing.  After this hour long break-out we returned for the wrap-up which included a personal story from the bishop about why this matters to him personally, and how starting with food will uncover other issues of poverty. Then in the best camp fashion, there was an adorable skit that outlined the groups already in place to address this issue from a variety of perspectives and planted ideas for congregations to consider, and we were sent on our way with a few more opportunities to talk with the speaker, make contributions, etc.

I came away inspired to incorporate this initiative into my work over the coming months. I also realized that I had just had an opportunity to observe Leading Change at its best. I've read the books about leading change, but I've never been this close to a fully realized campaign before. This initiative is actually almost a year old. The Bishop has been talking to the clergy about it since before I arrived. The Synod staff has been "forecasting" the kick-off of this at every event I've attended so far. This event, designed for church council leaders, was held during the Minnesota Food Share March Campaign to restock the food shelves. Apparently this campaign is familiar to everyone, so the attendees were pre-disposed to hear what was being said.

I am really amazed by this: amazed that Bishop Delzer has the conviction to mount a campaign of this magnitude; amazed to see each careful step unfold; amazed at the possibilities a network of 300 churches can generate; amazed by the power of those churches to lead their whole community, not just their congregation. 

On the other end of the spectrum are the other, far less well-thought-out but no less delightful events of the weekend. On Friday I had my first stamping event in Blooming Prairie which was well-attended, and fun. Friday night I went up to church and sent off 33 kids with 4 adult volunteers for a night of fun and games at the Rochester YMCA and other venues. (I didn't go, but I met them with glasses of milk and fancy doughnuts at 6:30 Saturday morning.) Then, on Sunday morning, we had our first Parent Meet-Up. This is an idea that grew out of a conversation at the Parish Ed Board meeting - to open a space where parents could talk about faith and parent issues, and also corral children who were too young to be in Sunday School. We did some minimal publicity, and people found us! I have high hopes for next week. 

Of course the week also included Ash Wednesday services and Sunday morning worship (including a very meaningful baptism of a very tiny baby) and background awareness of spring break, SXSW, the time change, and SPRING FEVER! We have had a couple of days above freezing this week and so the messy business of melting the snow is underway. This creates some incredible ruts in the roads and some really fantastic icicles. I'm sure there will be some new snow before spring fully arrives, but the relative warmth and the smell of wet earth bring hope. . . I think that I can say that I have survived my first winter back in Minnesota!

So, one last highlight from the past week, a little song/poem from Garrison Keillor about waiting for spring in Minnesota.There's a short request for a donation and a little musical interlude for about 30 seconds before it starts. Click here to listen and enjoy. The clip unfortunately leaves off the last line of the poem which is "nothing says spring like the smell of manure." Hope you'll enjoy this little snapshot of life 1100 miles north.