During our class we discussed three characteristics of communities of spiritual formation: people tell the truth, power and goals are different from the world and fear is diminished.
It seems this is a good framework for some reflection on the Garnett Church of Christ community.
People Tell the Truth:
This community values the truth. One of the most stark examples of this to me is how the leadership of the church handled the case of a young couple in the church who had a baby together before they were married. This would be a prime chance to ignore a situation, sweep it under the rug, or try to handle it in some secret cliche way. Instead the leadership of the church chose to handle this in the open. the leadership stood before the church at acknowledged that there had been sin, that there were consequences to what had happened. The couple then stood before the church and everybody laid hands on them and prayed for them.
So, it was awesome to see truth told, but it was truth backed up with love. They could have told the truth of sin and consequence, and it could have lead to rejection and isolation, but instead it is (i think) leading to healing and restoration.
I often hear (or are part of) conversations about transparency between leadership and the congregation. This transparency ranges from budget discussions to ministry leadership. I think that this openness and honesty is something that is truly being strived for.
A sort of institutional honesty is a big part of this of course. But it seems that there is another aspect to this, and that is how individuals relate to each other. Do they tell the truth and are honest? This is harder to know about of course, Its harder to know and understand what is going on within individual relationships. There are some times though when I feel like there may be some untruth between individuals. I don’t really have any specific examples of this, I think this is normal relationship stuff…people avoiding conflict, wanting people to like them and not saying no. I don’t at all think that this is some sort of indication that there is some secret covering up of truth, rather that people are people in every community.
Power and Goals are Different from the World.
There is clearly a different goal at Garnett. I have never really felt like anybody is looking for power or to build a kingdom. They truly are trying to create a place where God’s love is shown to all people. People on the outside see this. Greg has told me that even Mayor Cathy Taylor saw that Garnett Church loved all people, and that this was unusual, even at times among churches.
I think that the question of process vs. program is interesting at Garnett Church of Christ. I have never felt like there is a drive to create some sort of program that will drive people to the outcome that the church wants. At the same time I think they are still trying to figure out the process. Not that this is a community that has no direction and is just wondering around. It is clear that this community wants all people to know God’s love, but the question of how this community does that is not as well defined. This is not surprising (or even bad really) considering that the church in its current form (leadership, etc) has been around for less then a year. I guess the bottom line is that this place does not seem to want to have anything to do with programs that shoehorn people into set expectations and seek out preset conclusions. They truly are seeking ways to serve people through relationship and knowing them.
Fear is Diminished.
I have one story to tell that I think sums up this point about Garnett:
Yesterday i was interviewing a lady who has gone to Garnett Church of Christ for the last 40 years. I asked her what the biggest struggle she has overcome in her life was. She said her divorce. Some time ago, i really don’t know exactly when, her and her then husband attended church at Garnett. They were active members teaching Sunday school together and being very involved in the Church. Then he had an affair. She went through a lot, but the church stood by her. I asked if she was ever worried that the church would reject her because of her divorce, that she would in some way be marginalized. Her answer: “Never. It never even occurred to me.” No doubt she felt a lot of fear and rejection during this time. But the community stood to accept her and to help her overcome that fear.
A lot is different about this church then it was 20 or 30 years ago, but on this point I don’t think much has changed.