And Finally: April 2015
Here’s something that a number of you have participated in, that many of you probably aren’t aware of, and that I’d like to invite everyone to think about a bit: POLARITIES. ‘Polarities’ refers to the idea of two qualities that may seem in contrast or tension with each other being brought together as necessary parts of a whole; the idea that in many cases it is most helpful not to think about ‘either/or’ but about ‘both/and’. A very basic example of this is to think about breathing: what if you took the process of breathing and divided up into two groups, one group responsible for breathing in and the other for breathing out? – that wouldn’t work! – breathing in and out are necessary parts of the whole.
That may seem obvious, but then think about something like activity and rest. There are those who focus on the need to be active, working, productive; others emphasize the need for rest, replenishment, relaxation. The wisdom of polarities is that too much emphasis on either one will be detrimental, while an awareness of touching on both brings out the best qualities of each. It’s not so much about things being in equilibrium, but about there being a flow between the qualities – like breathing! – that keeps one mindful of the possibilities and pitfalls present in each.
That’s a very brief summary of polarities, so what about polarities at Hope Church? Over the past couple years, especially through the help of Hope Church member Kay Hubbard, leadership has started to look at some polarities that are present particularly in the life of a faith community. That discussion identified four important polarities for Hope Church to consider:
TRADITION & INNOVATION
INDIVIDUAL & COMMUNITY
CLERGY LEADERSHIP & CONGREGATIONAL LEADERSHIP
INREACH & OUTREACH
These are four polarities that get at the heart of the dynamics present in a congregation, dynamics that can provide a healthy flow or that can become skewed and lead to dysfunction. How do we get a sense of where Hope Church is at with those polarities? – that’s where a number of you came in. In February, close to 100 of you participated in a Polarities Survey designed to give a snapshot of how those dynamics are at work at Hope Church – thank you! In early March, the Consistory reviewed the input from the survey, and we were pleased that the survey input indicated a pretty healthy flow in each of those four polarities in our congregation. There are of course places of both strength and of concern identified, but what the input received from this survey can do is affirm some healthy dynamics present in our life as a congregation. And we receive this picture of health not as an end in itself (that would be very un-polarity like!) but to see how the healthy flow present in our congregation can be used as we look ahead in ministry with our Mission Statement and Themes. That’s what Consistory and the Discerning Our Future Team and Ministry Chairs will be doing in the coming months, and you can look for further ways to offer input and participation. And as we do so, I want to describe one further polarity at work among us as a faith community:
IN GOD’S HANDS & IN OUR HANDS
This polarity emerged through discussion with leadership as a way to describe an overarching dynamic for us to pay attention to as a congregation. This polarity seeks to express the way in which faith both trusts God as the One to whom we belong as God brings the Kingdom of God into being ~ In God’s Hands; and responds to God’s call to use our gifts to love and serve in witness to God’s kingdom ~ In Our Hands. As I’ve reflected on it, this polarity helps describe very deeply and provocatively what I see going on in my faith and in being a part of this community of faith: I see that God is at work in ways beyond any particular time or place, and that I am called to faithfulness in the time and place God gives to me; I see the Spirit of God nurturing, teaching, gifting, challenging God’s people in ever new ways, and I see people using their gifts in creative and life-giving ways; and I also see the temptation of “leaving it all up to God” so that we become passive, or of “it all depends on me” which can lose sight of God’s presence and provision. I think there is a lot of wisdom to mine out of this polarity, and I wonder what dynamics you might see in it for your faith and for us as a congregation (Individual & Community!).
As I’ve learned about and reflected on polarities, you begin to see polarities at work everywhere! And I hope that you along with me can see how helpful this polarities vision can be in bringing together dynamics within and around us into a flow that promotes health and vitality. Look for ways in which these polarities continue to guide our shared mission as a congregation and the witness we each carry out in our daily lives (that’s a polarity :)).