Town Halls and Deliberative Dialogs

staff-rev-nikki-shaw02We met via Zoom after worship on August 23rd to have a Town Hall meeting to discuss the continued suspension of inperson worship and the results of our COVID-19 survey. It was a time not for telling everyone “this is how it will be, so sayeth the Pastor” (or Council . . . or COVID-19 Planning Team), but for letting everyone talk together and see one another while they do so. It was a time of gathering as the church to ask questions (thank you Dr. Teresa Smith for speaking on behalf of the COVID-19 Team), explain our feelings, and share our concerns.

According to Matthew 18:15-20, it’s exactly the kind of work we should do together: gather to discuss things, even when they are hard, or emotional, or uncertain.

In this passage, Jesus is instructing the church about, in the simplest sense, how to resolve differences. In the theological sense, He’s telling the disciples how to handle sin in the congregation. Now, we didn’t meet to address the sins of one member or another, but it’s quite true that our meeting as a willing body of listeners and sharers, fends off a sin too many churches find themselves complicit in. The sin of silence. The sin of judgement without understanding. The sin of avoiding difficult things and letting discomfort and disengagement take root.

I know we didn’t change the terms of the pandemic, but I believe we made it a bit easier to live through it having had the invitation to be seen and heard in the context of our God-centered, Jesus-following, Spirit-filled congregation. And we have the opportunity to continue in this way, to live as a community in Christ, just as Jesus asks us to do in the Matthew passage.

Do you see it? The opportunity? It’s here: “If two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” When we gather in Christ’s name and work on putting aside fear of disagreeing so that we can experience the joy of consensus, of understanding, of setting a path forward that works for the betterment of all involved, we have the chance to be beneficiaries of God’s gift of grace, bound right here on earth.

In that spirit, please consider joining me and Pastor Daryl Emowrey and Calvary Lutheran for our Deliberative Dialogue on Political Polarization. We’ll meet online via Zoom on Sept. 17, 6-8 pm, and engage each other as the body of Christ, two or more coming together to say, “we aren’t afraid to talk, and even to disagree, because we trust that those things we do hold in common will be blessed by God.”

Sharing together difficult work for the glory of God and betterment of Creation is nothing short of miraculous, and you’re invited to the miracle.