A letter from Richard+ introducing this SEASON OF DISCERNMENT
Discernment is one of those “churchy” words that people often nod knowingly at, yet still wonder what it means. Christians use it when some big decision needs to be made (or a set of big decisions). When considering a call to ministry, people enter a lengthy period of discernment where that call is explored and tested. But you might also be in discernment when considering a change of career, a major move, or a deeper commitment to a relationship. Church communities, like All Saints, which are vibrant and ever-changing are often in discernment. A decade ago, the community of All Saints discerned a call for a new rector, just as I was also discerning a call to a new church. Then, together we discerned new music ministers, and new family ministers, new outreach ministries, and a new focus on racial justice. This Lent we are entering another season of discernment…this time focused on our capital needs.
Christian discernment refers to distinguishing God’s spirit from all the other spirits that constantly swirl around any given time and place. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God,” said the apostle John to his community back in the first century (1 John 4:1). But, discernment is more than simply choosing between right and wrong, a good choice or a bad choice. It is much more difficult than that. “Sound rational analysis based on the best available evidence is crucial to good discernment. Yet spiritual discernment goes beyond the analytical to engage our senses, feelings, imaginations, and intuition” (Grounded in God, p. 6). Discernment is taking the time to really feel the difference between two (or more) sometimes overlapping, but ultimately mutually exclusive good choices…It is “a prayerful, informed, and intentional attempt to sort through [all] these voices to get in touch with God’s Spirit at work in a situation” (Grounded in God). Or to put it into a pithy quote I found on the internet: discernment is striving to understand the difference between what is right and what is almost right.*
When in discernment we: look at things with new eyes; listen for new perspectives; open ourselves to multiple viewpoints; embrace the limits of what is possible; and learn to practice “holy indifference”—detaching from our own preferences, and sensing and embracing God’s will for us at this time and in this place.
This Lent, you will all be invited into small groups for the purpose of discernment around a number of possible capital projects. Sign up to attend one of these meetings using this sign-up genius link.
For years, our property committee and vestry have done an outstanding job of balancing the numerous ongoing maintenance and capital needs of our historic stone building with some strategic investments in our core programs: worship (which includes music), lifelong faith journeys (which includes family ministry), and community support (which includes our focus on addressing food and housing insecurity, and maintaining spaces for choral groups, recovery groups, pre-schools, and minority faith groups to meet). View a timeline of major projects and investments on this post. Yet, the vestry and property committee are also aware of additional needs that cannot be met merely by an annual investment in repairs and upkeep. View a list of potential capital projects on this post.
In these small group meetings, you’ll be shown a timeline of all that has been done over the past decade or so, along with a list of likely projects—including accessibility upgrades, necessary known capital expenses, and some smaller upgrades to various spaces—that the vestry and property committee have been exploring for the past several months.
In these small groups we will NOT be asking you to determine the scope, or even the possibility of any of these projects. What we WILL be asking you to do is discern. Discern: where the energy is…where the Spirit is moving…where do your senses, your intuition, your heart, head, and gut tell you God desires us to go. All groups will be led by trained facilitators who will collect your ideas. Some meetings will be in parishioners’ homes, some will be at church, some will be online. The more voices we have the better our discernment will be. I encourage everyone to find time to participate and help us in this season of discernment.
*The internet attributes this quote to the English Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon; however, I have not been able to discover the actual source of it.