It would be so much easier to know God’s call if God spoke to us through burning bushes columns of smoke and fire, or even just sent a text message. But unfortunately, we’re expected to discern God’s call without specific, written-down instructions like an Individualized Educational Plan.
For me, I can usually tell if something is a calling if it meets several criteria; the thought of doing it is invigorating and terrifying, more or less in equal measure. Of course this isn’t enough to make it a Christian calling or skydiving would be a divine calling. For me to discern what God is calling me to do it has to be something that I have spiritual gifts to do and it needs to meet a need I see in the world.
Theologian Frederick Buechner defines calling as the point of intersection between your deepest gladness and what you see as the world’s greatest need. Yes, the world may need more climate experts planning for good stewardship of the earth, but if I’m not a climate expert that isn’t my calling. The world may need more medical missionaries but if that doesn’t inspire joy and excitement in me I’m probably not called to do it. By the same token, I might get real joy from preaching, but if I’m not employing that joy-giving gift to better the world around me, I’m not fulfilling my spiritual call.
While discerning our individual calling is important, for God to work in the world, our call needs to be in congruence with God’s saving, reconciling work in the world. God calls the church to be a demonstration of harmony between God’s work, and the individual’s calling. In his letters to the Romans and to the Corinthians – two of the larger early churches – he explains how individual members of the church are to work together to be the Body of Christ in the world. “For as in one body we have many members, and not all members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ and individually we are members of one another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given us…” (Romans 12:4-6a). That’s right, churches have a calling too. And Central is one individual church in a denomination among denominations within the church universal.
Ten years ago, through a mission study, Central Eugene discerned its call as follows:
Our Vision for 2015
–that challenges our minds and fills our hearts
–that reflects our common faith but celebrates different expressions of it
–that provides welcoming sacred space that enlivens worship
Mission & Service
–that works for justice and peace in witness to God’s promises
–that aids the homeless and hungry; spread Christ’s love in community and world
— that provides mission and service projects that engage the young, old, and the in-between
–that projects being an inclusive, friendly, and caring church
–that welcomes children, youth, and young families through worship, program, and outreach
— that reachs out to University students, faculty and staff
–provides an Intergenerational ministry that is pervasive
— provides strong Adult Education Program encourages thoughtful inquiry; takes the Bible seriously, but not literally
–Pastoral Ministry: emphasis on seniors, involves more than the pastor and deacons
–Social opportunities promote community among members and friends of all ages
–that is open and honest
–provides opportunity for discussion and dialog on church and social issues
–that is able to debate and disagree without losing sight of our common faith
–that are used for the benefit of the community and activities that complement our mission focus
–that are safe and accessible to all
In ten years a lot has changed and it’s time for us to reflect and discern, confirming those things we still feel called too but also willing to let go when something just isn’t working or something new requires our attention. Sometimes our call changes as new members bring new gifts, or others leave the fellowship. We must also stay present to the changing needs in the community. As such, we should be ready to change with it, following the call wherever it leads next. In the next few months you are going to be asked to engage in a visioning process to help us all explore our ministry and discern where God is calling us to go. It will include a frank conversation about our current mission, ministry, and program, your personal convictions about what is important, our needs as a congregation, the financial capacity of the congregation, the location of our ministry and program, our assets and liabilities, and the needs in the community we feel called together to engage.
A Vision Team is being put into place by the Session, a new structure for congregational participation in decision-making has been constructed, and we are kicking off the process this Sunday, August 10th with a shorter worship service and Congregational gathering after worship to take a look at what things we do have the strongest support of our members. We need everyone’s participation. Please try to be with us if at all possible.
**The congregational gathering should be done in time for Cascade Manor folks to catch the bus home for lunch. The process will take around 30 minutes.