How to put the pieces back together.
What happens when a favorite pottery bowl breaks? In the states, we often feel sad and throw it away. In Japan, they use gold to bind the pieces back together. This art is called “kintsugi.” The mended bowl is even more interesting and beautiful after it has suffered its break than before.
The congregations that are part of our vitality process are doing the same thing. Each feels less than they used to be, they feel broken. They grieve the memory of how they used to be.
The congregation teams just finished the sixth of eight workshops. They have spent several months listening to their congregation and then articulating the core values they heard expressed. It probably isn’t surprising to learn that there were lots of stories that revealed a deep love for God and for one another (folks in the congregation) and several that expressed the joy they get in serving their neighbors.
More recently the teams turned their heads to the neighbors to listen to them. They know the demographics of the neighborhood around the church building. They know the mission and goals of many of the community’s institutions and agencies. They have walked and prayed their way through the neighborhood, and noted where they have existing relationships with local organizations.
Workshop 6 is where the rubber meets the road. Now they will turn all that knowledge into action and go meet some of these neighbors.
They have the tools. The pieces of their church bowl are at ready. The gold they will use to hold it all together is the mutual relationships they will create with their neighbors. This will not be anonymous way to serve the “less fortunate.” It will be a way to work with their neighbors to do something together for the good of the community.
Will they do it? That’s the question of the hour, but I have hope.
At the end of every workshop, I ask folks to fill in a couple of question stems on a 3 X5 card. They can share them with the group if they want, but they need to give them to me before they leave. Workshop 6 question stems were:
I am _____________with our progress because____________.
I am ____________ to meet our neighbors because___________.
I fully expected to hear that at least one person was “frustrated” because “this process is too hard” or “it’s taking too long” or “it isn’t adding anyone to our congregation”.
Instead, EVERYONE said things like: I am “pleased,” or “encouraged” because “we are learning, we are growing.”
For the neighbor question, I expected someone to say they were “afraid” or “reluctant” to meet their neighbors because they “were afraid of looking like a fundamentalist” or “they won’t want to talk to us.”
Instead, I heard: I am “excited” or “eager” because “collaboration brings new energy” “they have mutual values and concerns” or – my personal favorite “I really want a relationship with them!”
The gold has not been applied yet – the church bowl isn’t mended – but the materials are there and so are the motivation and the hope.
Don’t give up on broken pieces, they can be held together with gold. Kintsugi church.