Last year, I read a short reflection from a congregation I got to know back when I lived in Washington, DC. The Church of the Saviour is a Christian community with a social mission: they’ve always been a small congregation, but they’ve birthed nearly a dozen community-based nonprofits in the city, in their 50-year history. I still follow their mailing list, and on this particular day last Fall, I read something about them that I didn’t know before.
Once a year, this congregation asks its entire membership to re-commit to joining. They make an annual, community-wide practice of it, hosting a week of small group conversations, with time set aside for prayer and discernment. As one member said:
“It is an unusual church practice, perhaps unique, joining and re-joining the same faith community year after year. Or not. This is a serious time of soul-searching, listening to the Spirit, reviewing the community’s chosen commitment and practices for spiritual growth, and asking questions like: How am I being drawn into deeper connection? What does sacrificial giving look like this year? Is my calling to serve taking on a new shape?”
I was inspired reading this story, especially after all the changes of our current decade, so far. We know that many folks’ relationship to WellSprings has changed in the past three years. We also know that the old model of church membership (basically un-changed since the 1950s) no longer reflects how most people engage. It’s rare that we settle in one place for 30 years or more. Online worship makes membership possible at great distances. Family structures, and demands on working parents, are different. Economic pressures leave less time for volunteering – or sometimes even for just showing up on Sunday mornings.
Add all this to the regular ebb and flow of people’s lives, the natural waxing and waning of a relationship with one’s spiritual community over time, and we find that a “join once and then everything stays constant forever” membership model leaves a lot of questions unanswered:
- “What if I used to be involved, but then life got complicated… and now I don’t know how to find my way back?”
- “What if I’m very engaged now, but really need to take a break?”
- “I didn’t even realize I could go deeper – what would that look like?”
- “I stopped attending years ago, but would like to drop in now and then… am I still welcome? *gulp* Am I going to have to answer for where I’ve been…?”
- “What if I think I might want to re-connect someday, but I’m just not ready yet?”
We know your connections to our community might change, over time – and only you can decide how – but please know that you are also always welcome at WellSprings. Without need for explanation, or apology – whether you’re stepping back, or stepping back in.
So this year, on the heels of our latest Belonging Sunday, the Board of Trustees and I want to start a new practice, asking, without judgment: where are you, in your relationship to our community, today? The Engagement Survey we share here has only two, multiple choice questions. It will help us better understand the shape of our community, today – and hopefully, it will help you see yourself, as a part of who we are, together.
We want everyone to fill out this Survey. It’s not just for current or active members! If you’re reading this, you have some connection to our congregation already – you got an e-mail, you clicked a link, you saw this on Facebook – so please be assured that everyone means you! Just to get as full a picture of our community as possible, we are even going to give away an incentive: two people who fill out the Survey will receive a $25 Wawa gift card (a prize donated by yours truly) when we share the results at our Congregational Meeting, in June.
The shape of our lives, and our community, really has changed in these past three years. Please, help us explore that new shape by letting us know where you are – so we can be here for each other in the ways that matter, in all the years to come.