This spring we are entering a small group process called “Serving Christ, Simply, Peacefully, Together: Vision and Identity.” We will be asking two key questions:
1. What do we appreciate about who we are as a church? and,
2. What would we like to see more of?”
As a prelude to that conversation we have a gathered a summary of what we have learned about ourselves. I share that summary with you as a way for you to get to know Austin Mennonite Church (AMC).
Over the last few years AMC has processed vision, identity and strategic planning issues. In addition to internal conversations at congregational, committee and council meetings, there have been retreats and intentional times of working at clarifying our story as a faith community. What are our values? What has been the journey? Where are we going?
We are a growing congregation. From our beginnings in the mid 1980’s the number of attendees has climbed slowly to the current level of 40-60 attendees. Persons are attracted to AMC because of the peace and justice values, Mennonite identity and the feeling of community. There is awareness that we are on the growth side of the life cycle of a congregation and perhaps moving from a congregational culture of family, or small group, toward a more complex multi-group structure.
This year’s Leadership Board experiment grew out of an earlier task force discussion and is a response to the need for more persons to be involved in tending to the whole of the congregation’s relationships and ministries. The small group structure of this current vision and identity process is intended to support and encourage community building.
We are a growing congregation but we are somewhat unsure about what that means for our life together. Do we want to be more intentional about growth and welcoming new people? Will we lose the easy sense of small group familiarity and informal decision-making if we become more structured? How do we nurture relationships and community as we grow? We value being a diverse, inclusive, supportive community of faith.
We share space with other organizations – Trinity Child Development Center, Principe de Paz (Spanish-speaking church – Disciples of Christ), Windsor Park Community Gardens and the Austin Chapter of the American Recorder Society. We have good relationships with these groups and want that to continue. We want to be open to opportunities to foster relationships with these groups.
Shared space brings a need for good communication about facility issues – maintenance, repairs, use of space, clutter, storage, finances, remodeling, etc. We are growing in awareness that our facility, although well-used, is aging and lacks accessibility. We would like to upgrade areas of the facility but we still have a mortgage.
We are hopeful about our future even as we feel the need to clarify a vision about who we are and our plans for the future. We want to be more involved with local outreach and service opportunities. We want to provide more specific programs and space for children and youth. We want opportunities to serve others. We are a busy, urban congregation with a desire to serve Christ, simply, peacefully, together.
This feels like an Easter season conversation for a group of Christ-followers. I am looking forward to affirming our strengths and finding ways to clarify our vision and mission. I anticipate a process of bonding, discovery, laughter and energy. I pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us.