September 7, 2012

Bountiful Abundance

Here is a story about how a seasonal theme can emerge. 

As we were putting together the church school program for the coming fall, we retained the services of a mosaic artist to help our young people create a mural for the church. We held a meeting with the artist and several members of our children’s ministry team and brainstormed what images might be encouraged for such a piece of art. Since we were planning for the autumn season, images of harvest came to mind. Our junior high teachers had said they were planning to address hunger in their class, and at the meeting we envisioned one response to hunger could be that there is enough for everyone. That led us into a far-ranging discussion of how abundant the creation is and how we as humans don’t order our lives in such a way that everyone benefits from this bounty.

What happened next was this sheer flood of images of God’s abundance and someone said, “Not just abundance, but Bountiful Abundance!” That led me to pick up my iPhone and Google “bountiful abundance” and the number one entry described the Korean holiday of Chu Suk (추석), a harvest festival full of joy and the remembrance of ancestors. This galvanized our vision, merging harvest themes with the remembrance of heroes of our lives that our All Saints celebration always engenders.

And so Bountiful Abundance emerged as our theme. We proposed that the artist-in-residence use this same theme in teaching a five-session mural course for adults through our Center at St. Andrew’s. We also proposed to the Stewardship Committee (and they accepted) that Bountiful Abundance be the theme for our fall Annual Appeal.

So in the course of a ninety-minute meeting, eight people engaged in a dreaming process that resulted in this deep organizing principle for our whole community for the coming season. The theme of Bountiful Abundance and its Korean counterpart Chu Suk (추석) give us incredible options for creative exploration in faith formation, stewardship and community life.

This type of creative emergent design is well suited to an active, dynamic Christian Community. Not everyone was required to play along, but the Adult Faith Formation and Stewardship programs both caught the spirit of the theme right away. This didn’t come as a decision dictated from the top-down but as an opportunity that had arisen in the midst of the community.

I will be writing about how this theme gives life to our community in the coming 11 weeks, sharing how we tease out the actual component parts from this sweeping image. As I love to say, all great ideas finally degenerate into work. But I am excited about a two-word theme cooked up at an eight person meeting that will now shape three important programs of our church and give a shared vision to our common life. I think this is how the Holy Spirit is supposed to work, isn’t it?