Enacting Hope: Steps to Take
The Church in the Heart of the City

Third in the Series

In the first two papers on this theme I have discussed some of the contextual and theological factors that are at work in churches that have a heart for city ministry. I have outlined some of the practices, visions and challenges shared in common with other congregations and have suggested that we can learn a great deal from each other’s experience.

This third paper in the series is a response to some prompting questions...

What are the ways or processes that work best to develop and grow a commitment to city ministry?

What are some of steps to take in turning visions into core pastoral practices, put theories and convictions to work and develop public presence in the ever changing city landscape?

  1. Build on our strengths, our assets, begin where we are with what we have. These are Asset Based Community Development principles. (ABCD). “Community building depends on rediscovering and mobilising resources already present in any community. The gifts and skills of residents and the assets of the physical community are always the starting place”. Find ways to release and grow passions for ministry, practical expressions through gifts and skills already on hand.
  2. Learn from our experience... develop the action/reflection cycle. Congregations are learning communities.
  3. Work with the right leading questions to discern opportunities for new expressions of ministry. Reflective conversations exploring innovative possibilities and wide ranging strategic conversations. Set a pattern or feeling (tone) of invitation, listening and expectation.
  4. Think outside the box...reframe, shifting our perceptions and assumptions.
  5. Work to develop partnerships: we do not have to do it all on our own. There are others who have the same visions and hopes for a city committed to justice making, hospitality and compassion.
  6. Those taking initiatives and responsibility for leadership take the time to understand the system and earn the right to propose change. Develop an appreciation of the history, culture and structure of the congregation and its networks of association.
  7. Relate the congregation’s story, its practical theology to the larger sacred story, core theological assumptions and underlying ethos. Through prophetic, (voice and public theology) pastoral (care and hospitality practices) and priestly (liturgical, poetical, prayer and song). 

Gospel for Today
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.   Matthew 11:28-30

A local applied theology
The mission of a community is to give life to others, that is to say, to transmit new hope and new meaning. Mission is revealing to others their fundamental beauty, value and importance in the universe, their capacity to love, to grow and to do beautiful things and to meet God.   Jean Vani.

References
The Art of Powerful Questions: Catalysing Insight, Innovation and Action. Eric E Vogt, Juanita Brown and David Isaacs.  2003.
Four Ingredients of Successful Congregational Change. David Brubaker. Alban Institute.
Asset-Based Strategies for Faith Based Communities. The Assets Based Community Development Institute 2002.

A Foundational Uniting Church Prayer
(By Jon Humphries on ‎37 Years of UCA and adapted from the Uniting Church in Australia, 'Statement to the Nation' in 1977)

God who unites us in the cause of the common good,
The path to unity can be long and at times difficult.
You call us into unity as a sign of the reconciliation you seek for the whole human race.

In Christ you commission us with a responsibility to society which will always fundamentally involve us in social and national affairs.

You give us responsibilities within and beyond this country to work to uphold basic Christian values and principles, such as the importance of every human being and the need for integrity in public life.

You give us the task of proclaiming truth and justice and the rights of each citizen to participate in decision-making in their community.

You call us to advocate for religious liberty and personal dignity.

You commission in us a concern for the welfare of the whole human race.

God who unites us in the cause of the common good,

Move us to seek the correction of injustices wherever they occur.

Push us to spend our time and effort for the eradication of poverty and racism within our society and beyond.

Fill our lungs with your Spirit that we might call for and affirm the rights of all people to equal educational opportunities, adequate health care, and freedom of speech.

Spur us forward to work so that all may find employment or dignity in unemployment if work is not available.

Fire up our passion and burn away our complacency so that we might oppose all forms of discrimination which infringe basic rights and freedoms.

Give us the desire and the want to challenge values which emphasise acquisitiveness and greed in disregard of the needs of others.

Separate us from selfish thoughts and values that we might stand against that which encourages a higher standard of living for the privileged in the face of the daily widening gap between the rich and poor.

God who unites us in the cause of the common good,

Concern us with the basic human rights of future generations.

Urge us to find wisdom and take action to ensure the wise use of energy, the protection of the environment and the replenishment of the earth's resources.

God who unites us in the cause of the common good,
we owe you our first allegiance.

Under you the policies and actions of all nations must pass judgment. Steel us for when our discipleship and allegiance bring us into conflict with the rulers of our day, that we may stand your ground.

Unite us as one people so that your universal values find expression in national policies and that humanity may survive under your guidance.

God who unites us in the cause of the common good,

We pledge ourselves to hope and work for a nation whose goals are not guided by self-interest alone, but by concern for the welfare of all persons everywhere.

We commit ourselves the family of the One God — the God made known in Jesus of Nazareth;
Who is the One; Who gave His life for others.

In the spirit of His self-giving love may this be so.

Amen

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