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Monday, February 11, 2008

Vestry Retreat


I'm fresh from Vestry Retreat and have a thought about a Vestry Community Building Project. I'd like to float it by you and get your thoughts and ideas and solicit any resources you might have.

As an 'opening ice breaker' we asked folks to say their birth order, the constellation of their family of origin, and their greatest challenge in that family - as child, teen, and/or adult - which is an operational dynamic in their lives today.

Yes, I'm an unashamed devotee of Ed Friedman's Family Systems approach to congregational life and leadership. I am also an unabashed fan of Walter Wink's approach to Bible Study.

It was fascinating. Of the 12, 8 of my Vestry are first born children. There are three 'middle children' and one 'baby". Seven of us are Adult Children of Alcoholics (mostly mothers, one father) and one is an Alcoholic in good recovery. It's easy, now, to see why most of us are in 'responsibility over-drive' - a good thing, which also serves as a cautionary parable about the potential for 'burn out'.

As we were forming goals for the year, I said that as 'Rabbi' one of my goals is to get them - and the congregation - to think more biblically, and to see how God's revelation is on-going in our lives of faith. Specifically, I'm hoping that more and more of us can identify a scriptural passage which animates our sense of ministry - individually and corporately - to be able to more clearly articulate how their story, our corporate story, is part of the Gospel story.

For example, I said that I read the story of the Canaanite woman in Matthew's gospel (15:21-28) as one that is a source of inspiration and validation. You know the story. This woman tries to get to Jesus for healing for her daughter but the disciples keep shooing her away. She uses her persistence with them and her wit and intelligence with Jesus, inadvertently confronting them all on their sexism and racism. Jesus says to her, "Woman, great is your faith. Let it be done for you as you wish."

I saw lots of heads nodding in recognition around the table. I also allowed as how I often see them as Bible characters, which gives me a perspective of the holiness of their ministry. "Ah, there you are, Peter," I often say, "Come here, you big lug, and let me 'splain some things to you." Or, "Oh, hello, Ruth. Great is your faithfulness." You know. Like that.

They were intrigued by this thought and were immediately curious to know who they were for me. I then suggested that what I thought of them was less important than how they see themselves and each other. I explained that I wanted them to think about everyone with whom they worked on Vestry and come to Vestry meetings prepared to lead our opening meditation in a different way.

Our current practice is to start with 30 minutes of Bible Study before our Vestry meeting. We close that time and open our business session with a meditation or prayer offered by one of the Wardens or Vestry in rotation. I'm suggesting that the 'opening meditation' time be used with one or two of them, in turn, identifying each of the Vestry members in terms of a Bible character, keeping the focus positive, of course.

They were both excited and challenged by this task. After the Retreat ended, more than a few of them came up to me saying, "You know, I confess that really don't know much about the characters in the Bible. Can you give me a list of characters from which I can choose? Is there a book that gives a little synopsis of a character from scripture that will point me in the right direction to the story in the Bible?"

Which leads me to my question to you. Oh, I can do a google search and undoubtedly find some books which do this. I'm wondering if there are any resources you know - even if it's a children's book (which are often much better than adult books - that does this. Sort of a "meet the family of God" Social Register or a Biblical version of the Clerical Directory (what we used to call 'The Stud Book'). It doesn't have to be definitive or exhausting - just a little something to jump-start the process, arouse their curiosity, and send them to the Scriptures for more information.

I am enormously excited by this project. It's creative and helps to accomplish my goal of helping them think more biblically to see how God's revelation is on-going in our lives of faith. I'm hoping that more and more of us can identify a scriptural passage which animates our sense of ministry - individually and corporately - to be able to more clearly articulate how their story, and our corporate story, is part of the Gospel story.

I would be most grateful for any help you can give me in finding a resource that can 'jump start' this process and point them in the right direction. Thanks for your help.

3 comments:

2nd bratche said...

Freddie Beuchner has a good book- Peculiar Treasures - a biblical whos who. Well written, little mini sermons that I think he once preached at Exeter. Strongly suggested

Mary E said...

Now is a great time of year to share with people Melissa Nussbaum's "Bible Stories for the 40 Days." It's a beautiful children's book (to share with the whole family), with one story for each day of Lent. It walks through the major stories of the bible, with lovely modern illustrations, and a pretty inclusive translation. I'd love to hear what other suggestions people send!

Diane said...

Drat! I was going to suggest "Peculiar Treasures." I also have the Bible Stories... one, and it's GREAT! hmmm... I think there might be a couple of others, too. let me check my library.