This past year has been very busy as we have continued our work in the last year of the Diocese of Maine’s participation in the Living Local: Joining God (LL:JG) process with three other dioceses.
In January, the Guiding Team and the Vestry participated in a diocese-wide webinar with the consultant Alan Roxburg. There was considerable discussion of the Action-Reflection Model (depicted on the wall of the Shamrock Room) and the need to intentionally include the reflection phase in all activities undertaken. We also expressed our dissatisfaction with the persistent use of the Luke 10 passage in our Dwelling in the Word. We began inviting people from our community to talk to us about their ministries of BEING WITH the people in their neighborhoods. We partnered with Outreach in the Lenten activity of “Following in His Footsteps” to help support the Street Pastors. We created a Lenten Calendar to enhance personal action within the congregation. We began to further our discussions about the expansion of our garden plots into a true Neighborhood Garden.
In February, the Guiding Team created the “Garden on the Wall” from the responses to our thought-gathering activity during Annual Meeting. We also participated in the diocesan meeting and were blessed with a new passage, Acts 16: 6-15, to use in Dwelling in the Word! We were given the task of creating a small experiment to try with a 4-week timeframe. We chose the Art-on-the-Go from the Columbia Street Lunch as the short-term experiment because we had the Neighborhood Garden as our long-term experiment. The Art-on-the-Go experiment was to be a way to have Living Local move an activity from the Guiding Team to the Artful Spirit Group to increase the involvement of the congregation in DOING WITH instead of only DOING FOR the Lunch attendees. The Guiding Team process goals were/are to keep doing listening work with the congregation, being transparent with our process, and to emphasize DOING WITH vs FOR our neighbors.
In March, our first meeting was attended by Michael Ambler, one of the diocesan coordinators. We discussed the various speakers we had heard and realized we had not gathered reflections from the congregation about the visit from the sheriff. We planned the presentation that Mary Ann, Jane Hartwell (another diocesan coordinator), and Peg would give on the Living Local process in April at the Spring Diocesan Training.
April saw ongoing initial planning work on the Holyoke Street Garden. The Spring Diocesan Training presentation by Mary Ann, Jane Hartwell, and Peg went quite well planting ideas among the attendees to become participants in the Living Local movement.
In May, the Holyoke Street Garden planning with the neighbors unfortunately saw poor attendance by neighbors for the initial meetings. The grant from the Diocese was received by FLIA, more garden beds were added behind the building with help from many members of the congregation. The Art-on-the-Go Experiment did not work and reflection showed poor inclusion of the Artful Spirit group in the planning and execution and evaluation by the people who participated in all aspects of the Columbia Street Lunch. The Guiding Team and clergy participated in a Zoom meeting with Michael Ambler and Jane Hartwell to bring them up to speed on our first experiment and to discuss our second experiment. We are beginning to work on learning to listen to where the Holy Spirit is asking us to go. We are finding we are not reflecting enough as we are doing the work we THINK the Spirit is calling us to do. We need to do more listening with others within our congregation and the neighborhoods about the directions the Holy Spirit moves them. We asked Outreach to include information about the Holyoke Street Garden planting meeting in their yard sale flier.
June saw very positive interactions of members of the congregation and our Holyoke Street neighbors on the Yard Sale day! Many of the congregation went to the neighbors’ yard sales, meeting and conversing with them!! The Holyoke Neighborhood Garden was planted with help from a few neighbors.
We took six weeks off to rest our brains and connect with God and our neighbors on different levels and got together in late August to discuss our adventures. Each of us had mixed results practicing talking intentionally with some people about their lives, spirituality, and encountering God. The Holyoke Neighborhood Garden did not produce many vegetables. The setting up of a “Reading Box” was a new experiment talked about and the Team decided Spring would be a good time to survey the Holyoke neighbors about the need and what would be preferred to be stocked in the box. We also decided to meet regularly once a month rather than every two weeks.
In September, we met at St. Pats with a member of the Diocesan LL:JG Team and had a discussion about our experience with the process. We also had another Harvest Gathering with the congregation. Thank you, Vestry for the great spaghetti lunch! We gathered information about what the LL:JG process has been for individuals and for the congregation as a whole. We had everyone practice listening and reporting back what they heard to enhance listening skills. Some of the congregation reported to the gathering what they heard. We also asked “Where do you see God directing our LL:JG process?”
During our October meeting, we reflected on the results of the Harvest Gathering finding we really only heard from about ¼ of the participants and got very few responses from other congregants. The congregation is proud to say we are participating in the LL:JG process but only some actively participate. Some of the feedback about the future included “How do we do discernment?” and the need to make our processes be transparent so others can see how the Spirit moves us. We will be looking into ways to listen deeper, practice discernment, and keep everyone thinking about where God is sending us to work WITH our neighbors! To increase congregant participation, we created a prayer for the LL:JG process to be included in the Prayers of the People and in the Announcements. We also will be looking at better placement of our gardens and increasing the involvement of neighbors. We will be working with a neighbor who requested the formation of a Home and Garden group. The display on the downstairs wall will change to reflect what we are currently doing, keeping in mind that we are continuing to further integrate the congregation’s ownership of the LL:JG activities and processes already begun.
In November, the Guiding Team and clergy attended the Diocesan LL:JG meeting in Waterville with 4 of the 7 participating parishes, their clergy, and the Diocesan Team for the final meeting of this cohort of LL:JG. You have heard and seen the report of that meeting and the reports from the four dioceses. St. Pat’s LL:JG Team met later in the month and discerned we want the congregation to continue the process at St. Pat’s because “we have too many irons in the fire to stop now!” We have been looking at how to mesh our discernment work with the home church idea. In addition, we have been reading Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community to explore tools for discernment.
A snow storm prevented us from meeting in December. 2019 promises to be a BIG experiment with lots of smaller ones!
Pat Blethen, Jane Harburger, Peg Olson, and Mary Ann Perry