The Vision Thing

This is my column from the July, 2012 South Church newsletter, The Voice:

President George H. W. Bush once dismissed pleas from his party to articulate a compelling vision for the country by making contemptuous reference to “the vision thing.” This sound bite only seemed to reinforce the perception that Bush’s presidency was a ship without a rudder, wandering from one short-term objective to another.

From time to time someone at South Church will ask me about my vision for the church. I think a shared, compelling vision is essential for any organization, so I haven’t been dismissive of these queries. But I also haven’t rallied the church around a single, coherent “vision statement,” yet.

There are two reasons for this. First, we are a Congregational and Baptist church committed to democratic governance. Ideally, a vision emerges out of a congregational process in which everyone participates. But such visioning processes can be long and, frankly, tedious. Instead of ending up with a powerful statement of vision the result is too often a cumbersome paragraph that looks like it was written by a committee (because it was).

The second reason I haven’t proclaimed a vision for South Church is because there have been lots and lots of other pressing issues before the church. Restoring confidence and hope following a challenging interim period and addressing a life-threatening budget crisis seemed to call for a series of timely responses instead of “the vision thing.” Maybe this is how President Bush felt.

This said, I have had a vision that has served as my rudder since I first experienced a call to ministry. And I have frequently articulated this vision here at South Church; I just haven’t announced it by saying, “HERE IS MY VISION!” But this vision is often discernable in my sermons and evident through the choices I make as your pastor. I wonder how each of you would complete the sentence, “Pastor George’s vision for the church is…”?

My words of welcome on the South Church homepage are instructive:

“Welcome to South Church! We are a diverse community of faithful and seekers. We are Baptist (ABC) and Congregational (UCC); we are black, brown and white, gay and straight, Republican and Democrat, born again and agnostic; we work in schools, offices, factories and Dunkin’ Donuts; we are students, retired and unemployed. We come from backgrounds Protestant and Catholic, while others are discovering church for the first time.

And when we come together with our joys and sorrows, our faith and our doubts – when we worship together, share communion together, sing together, study the Bible together, and fellowship together – we love and support one another to become one body of Christ.

No matter who you are, no matter where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here. Welcome home to South Church.”

What to you find here? Diversity? Yes. Hospitality? Certainly. Grace? Of course. But there is still more implied by these words. Try this on for size:

South Church brings people together across the differences that divide our world to become one Body of Christ.

I don’t need to tell you about the hurtful divisions that wrack our world today. Families, communities, our country and our world are ripped apart by differences in beliefs and practices. Attempting to bridge (not resolve but connect across) our differences is a tall order requiring much more than a smile and a handshake on a Sunday morning. We would have a lot of work to do to live into this vision for the church, but when I look out on the congregation on a Sunday morning I believe we are already off to a great start.

Please prayerfully ponder these words, “South Church brings people together across the differences that divide our world to become one Body of Christ.” Does this vision for South Church speak to you? Could this vision provide a rudder to guide our worship and work together? How do we become the church described by this vision? Let’s begin the conversation and get under way.

Advertisements

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://pastorgharris.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/the-vision-thing/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: