In session one on Thursday, Donna invited us to move beyond a paradigm of 'should' to 'might' or 'may' or 'want' for our choosing to engage in public ministry.
In session two, Saturday, we explored stories and models of leading public ministry.
Today, session three, was focussed on our practice of public ministry, Donna reflecting back some of the key themes and ideas from the masterclass and Jana inviting us to reflect on our practice as we began to consider how we might apply our learning as we go from the time apart back into our ministry contexts.
Donna observed that our (the church) strongest capacity is the capacity to invite. Yes, we can overdo the 'hosting' in our relationships with the community, rather than 'receiving' and being guests of others, but we are one of the oldest community groups, so it is good for us to invite, to create the spaces for mutual sharing of stories, for 'parallel play' (like community gardens), through which we learn from each other and discover ways into healing and wellbeing together.
Particularly for the community at Pilgrim, the host for the masterclass, might be the opportunity to engage with travellers, pilgrims, with blessings of the backpacks or bicycles. People come here to Australia to discover what it is like to live here, be here, be us. I am wondering what it is in Belair - the national park, walking, perhaps. How can we engage with walkers, the national park ... ?
I found Donna's idea of the church as a council of elders intriguing - as I live out being an ordained minister, I do this through the lens of being a storyteller, drawing on the idea of elders as the ones who hold the stories of a community in trust, so it resonated for me.
Then we were led through the process of appreciative enquiry: a process of doing more of what works, telling the story, unpack it, learn and energise the usual (the usual: what we are already doing).
As I considered a 'best' experience of participating in public ministry, I reflected on a moment in the life of The Esther Project, and in the process, I found appreciative enquiry to be a helpful model for my project of writing a book that tells this story. I have been searching for the questions to ask at the end of each chapter, each chapter telling particular elements of the story of this experiment in Christian community. The questions at the end of the chapter, I hope, will be questions that invite the readers to consider what they might learn for their projects & experiments in new forms of church. Appreciative enquiry asks what will we keep doing, stop doing, start doing and do differently? I am now playing with questions like: what would I do again, what would I not do again, what would I do differently, and what story started here or how does this story continue?
And another question that emerged throughout the afternoon today, for my continuing public ministry as a biblical storyteller, is whether or how I might offer a workshop for (church) communities to tell our (the biblical / Christian) story in conversation with the wider community? I am wondering what might that look like, is it within the parameters of sarah tells stories, how can I invite people to imagine the ways in which they might offer their / our / the Christian story as we seek to build relationships in the community that are transformative & healing.
This has been an enriching series of sessions exploring public ministry, the energising, deepening & making dense of the usual things we do as church in such a way that they may be always deeper for all.