Choosing Hope: DCC’s Elders Seek to Discern DCC’s Future

Greetings Community!

We are living through tumultuous times. Old institutions are failing, our trust in organizations is fading, and the fabric of our society is strained nearly to the breaking point. Who among us doesn’t ask, where are we going, what’s the future look like, is there any hope, and, for religious people, how might religious communities be agents of the answer not parts of the problem?

This is a time of large scale soul-searching and a critical examination of much of what we hold dear. We all need a sense of hope and direction. Our church community is no exception.

Throughout the past few months, you may have heard mention from Pastor Chris or members of Session about the visioning process that is under way. The structure and intention for this process has been growing since last winter, and is now moving into full bloom this summer and fall.

The purpose of this process is to deepen and expand the current DCC vision to help discern and guide what more DCC is called to be and do as a twenty-first century church. DCC has a rich history within the City of Davis and PCUSA for progressive, compassionate engagement with the community to address needs and build bridges. DCC contains many gifts in the forms of talented people, resources and facilities, a clear intention to positively impact the community DCC is situated within, and social capital built from connections to organizations in other sectors. DCC faces the possibility of joining with these other sectors in a force for greater community transformation.

This blog will be one space to share this process with wider ripples of the congregation and community, to keep you updated, to engage creative explorations, to share conversation, and invite participation. As this process emerges, we will invite your participation in a variety of ways, including responding to surveys, joining a dinner discussion, engaging related art projects etc. Please look out for invitations to participate, and we are excited to experience what grows from these engagements!

And as a starting point, we’re posting the message that Pastor Chris sent to the congregation back in April describing our first step in this visioning process. We encourage you to share your insights and questions here in the comments section of this blog, in conversation with Session and the planning team, and by participating in upcoming activities intended for engaging this process. May we experience curiosity, joyfulness and connection with each other, with Spirit, and with the evolving purpose of this beautiful community.

DCC’s elders seek to discern DCC’s future
by Pastor Chris, April 2017

Our elders met at the end of March for a Friday-Saturday retreat to take the first step in exploring the ways we can rise from our strong history and grow an even stronger future. Entering the future is no easy task today, the tumult of the world around us is challenging the leaders of every kind of organization in America and around the world.

The March visioning retreat—as the first step in a more comprehensive journey—grew directly out of the findings and directives contained in our 2014 congregational Mission Study (the study can be found on the DCC website under “About”, “Updates/Reports”). That Study is a comprehensive assessment of the state of our congregation and its sense of expanding mission and ministry. Most of the congregation participated in that study, and a team of eight of our leaders, plus a representative from the Sacramento Presbytery (the Presbytery is the body of pastors and elders from around the Sacramento region) worked to analyze and distill the findings into a series of challenges and opportunities we ought to engage.

Among many other things, that study showed us that our Session (“Session” is the name our Scottish Presbyterian ancestors gave for the small band of pastors and elected elders who meet regularly in council) is primarily responsible for discerning God’s vision for DCC and providing general oversight in the life of the church. “As the visioning body,” states the Mission Study, “Session continues to look for ways to reach beyond the walls of DCC. It shepherds the congregation in times of transition, manages change, provides strong communication that gives us a sense of purpose, direction, confidence, and manages DCC’s resources so that we are good stewards of the gifts we are given.”

At the March retreat, we began to claim that responsibility more fully. But true vision doesn’t simply fall from the sky, nor is it an expression of what we idealize for our future or what a handful of leaders want. Vision, purpose, direction, and strategy—if they are truly good and relevant—take time to discern; what we want for our congregation is a sustainable and nourishing garden, not a house of cards.

Before we actually began to engage questions of who we are, what we’re to be doing, and how we need to change to meet the challenges of the 21st century, we needed to explore our own impediments to seeing the future, the resistances we each might hold in our hearts to the changes that God may be up to among us. And so, our first task was to explore what might make each of us personally resistant or immune to the changes we need to embrace. Michaela Daystar, Joe Gee, Deborah Luthi, Bill Habicht (the retreat planning team) and I invited the Session into a process called “Overcoming Immunity to Change.” We began by each elder and both pastors identifying one way they feel they the need to grow and change—some goal for themselves that, if engaged, would: 1. benefit us personally, 2. help us identify things that block the growth or change (no matter how much we might yearn for or need that change), and 3. enable us to make some change that might also benefit our roles as leaders. All of this so that we are better equipped to help DCC in its own evolution into the fullness life, and the flourishing of soul God desires for us all.

Then at the April Session meeting each elder met in a small group of other elders to report on the ways we are moving toward our change goal and what struggles we may be encountering along the way. Building upon the closing scripture of the Mission Study, we also explored the biblical metaphor of exile from Jeremiah 29 and listened for the ways the prophet’s appeal to ancient Israel might speak to our emerging sense of mission and ministry today and into the future: “Seek the wellbeing of the city where I have sent you into exile,” wrote Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon. Israel found itself living in challenging times, in an unfamiliar land. It’s not hard to identify with them. But rather than circling the wagons, withdrawing into a sectarian and escapist religion, or hunkering down into little ghettos of immunity to the world around them, they were told by God to fully engage the city around them and seek its wellbeing.

This is the path we’re walking at this point in time. What it means concretely for DCC in terms of direct purpose, strategy, programs, staffing, and resources is the stuff of this visioning journey we’re on together.

I urge you to pray for our elders, and I invite you to pay attention, along with the elders, to what the Spirit may be birthing among us.

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