“Never have I ever” is a wonderful icebreaker game that I’ve used to help groups keep conversations going. But after my visit to St. Andrew’s in Ft. Worth, those were the first words I said to my wife when I called home. Never have I ever seen a parish so engaged and ready to pray, plan, and prepare for God’s next steps in the mission that God has called them to take.
Canon Mark Eldredge and I flew out to St. Andrews to help with a Revive Weekend, a three-day consultation designed to help parishes move forward in healthy and thriving mission. From the moment we arrived, however, it was clear that the parish and Fr. Jacob Worley had already been tilling the soil! Having done a Church Health Assessment and training with the Vestry, it was clear that the Lord was ready to help move the parish forward.
One hundred people from the parish showed up to engage the Revive process. They were eager to learn, laugh, and even cry a little as the Lord began to instill in them a clearer sense of mission and purpose. As I listened from the back of the room, I was impressed with the developing picture of a parish on mission. And I was even more impressed with the engagement each participant shared with the others. They sat at round tables, each with a table host, and took on the challenging questions they were assigned. Not one group looked like they were “checked out”!
By the end of the day, it was clear that they had identified the opportunities for change and growth, and even noticed the challenges in an honest but helpful way. Despite the obstacles ahead, they seemed ready to see a new season dawn for St. Andrew’s next 100 years of ministry to the Ft. Worth area — and maybe even beyond!
As I left to fly back to Charleston, I realized how much I longed for this process in parishes I served in the past. What a gift it is for a rector to have someone like Canon Mark Eldredge come alongside a church’s leadership and provide coaching, encouragement, and an outside voice to emphasize opportunities and point out challenges. In the end, our prayer is that every revitalized church might say, “Never have I ever caught such a beautiful glimpse of what the Lord might do among us”.
By The Rev. Greg Smith