Apparently the desire to begin new “missional communities” within the PC(USA) is not limited to the local or even Presbytery level. Now, at the national level God has seen fit to put people in place who are also sensing this call. If you ask me, when something like this grabs hold of so many different people within the church at the same time it is a clear indication that the Spirit is moving!
There is an interesting article pointing to this move at the National level in the most recent issue of The Presbyterian Outlook. The article, written by Erin Dunigan, is called “Rekindling the Spirit Needed for Mission to Flourish.” I would provide a link, but I cannot find it on their website yet. Here are some excerpts.
“The PC(USA) is ____________ .” What would you use to fill in the blank? The hope of Roger Dermody, deputy executive director for the General Assembly Mission Council, is that the answer would be “people who are changing lives.” Dermody’s vision, fleshed out as 1001 new missional communities in 10 years, is an ambitious challenge for a denomination that has faced struggles of political and theological controversy as its membership declines. Dermody came to the GAMC after nearly two decades of ministry at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles. “By God’s grace I was part of some ministries that, even though circumstances looked bleak, they turned around,” he said. His current call, he said, is to be a catalyst for new life. “We in the Presbyterian Church used to have this incredible entrepreneurial spirit that created hospitals (and) amazing schools, as well as churches. So what I began to wonder was: How can we help inspire people to get back to that?” It was from that wondering that “1001 in 10” was born…
…Dermody said “1001 in 10” is also not meant to discount the mission and ministry of existing congregations, but rather to engage those communities in thinking of new experiments. The term missional communities rather than churches or congregations is intentional. “The minute you call something a ‘church’ we have so many rules that it almost chokes something out before it even starts,”…
Although I would agree that changing the language may create some freedom from regulation, a more positive reason for using the term “missional community” is to reinforce that idea the a gathering of believers is supposed to be identified by their common mission in Christ rather than a shared denominational membership, church building, etc. However, I recognize that the language is very important when you are talking about finding a place for something new within an existing denominational structure and polity. The article goes on to explain that there is a desire to support the grassroots movements (like the one we are beginning, I hope) rather than legislate it top-down.
[Dermody’s] hope, … is to create a movement where the church rediscovers its role in giving birth to new worshipping communities. Dermody said the initiative is not an attempt to bypass the role of middle governing bodies in new church development. “It doesn’t have to come through us,” he said. “Our role is connecting and inspiring the church and using our balcony view to see what is going on and connect that.” Dermody said he would “love this to be something that we all take on together.” He already has commitments from organizations within the PC(USA) for close to half the target number of new missional communities.
Sometimes, timing is everything. Often people want to look at attempts at New Church Development in the past and figure out how to make it work “this time around.” But if this is truly Spirit-initiated then we won’t have to “try,” we just have to respond faithfully.