Morning Leaders Session (Nancy & Shirley Hartmann, Bob & Joanna Sanferrare, Jane & Emily Sample, Connie Haberkern, Pastor Gwyneth)
- Morning retreat session was for church leaders, mostly from Church Council, and was held at the Sanferrare’s home across from the street with a beautiful view of the river.
- After a bonding game, we read through Acts 2:41-46 together, highlighting some of the “fruits” of the early church’s ministry. Some of these included: passion, salvation, devotion to learning, fellowship (deep mutual sharing, connecting, compassion, going beyond the superficial), sharing meals, sharing prayer, sharing material goods, miracles, awe, unity, sacrifice for one another, nourishment, spiritual growth, growth in numbers. We noticed that the order in these verses is interesting – we sometimes place growth in numbers as the priority, but this perhaps needs to be last as it flows naturally when the others are happening well.
- Using the “Five Practices of a Fruitful Congregation” as a basis for our discussion, we broke into smaller groups and brainstormed the fruits we can measure in each of these five areas, and then presented them to the larger group:
Radical Hospitality – Hospitality is invisible as well as intentional, hospitality ministry focuses on ministry to those visiting or not yet within the church, hospitality is seen as the role of the entire congregation not just the Greeter, but there is also intentional training for those serving within hospitality ministries such as Greeting, we are known in the community as a church who cares.
- Passionate Worship – God is central in all of worship and there is no sense of human performance, worship is interactive and engaging rather than passive, worship is multigenerational and blends new and old generation styles and traditions of worship, worship is regularly held in places and ways that reach out to the unchurched
- Intentional Faith Development – all ages engaged in faith development not just children and youth, 100% of adults are involved in a small group, families within the community speak highly of our church’s children and youth ministries, small groups are welcoming and include people from within and outside the church
- Risk Taking Mission and service – Children and youth are actively engaged in hands-on mission both locally and away; intentional serving those not within our church – includes not only serving those who struggle economically but also those who struggle in other ways (feel like outsiders within our society, those who are struggling emotionally and spiritually; congregation hosts training for mission.Missionis done with no hidden agendas; on the other hand those engaged in mission are serving out of their love for Jesus and are ready to lovingly share their faith-experience.
- Extravagant Generosity – The church focuses on God’s abundance rather than human scarcity so any discussion around money is positive and uplifting, the congregation is known as being generous, much of our giving is outwardly focused on neighbors in need and other mission, there is obvious transparency and good stewardship with the church’s finances and resources, people are giving in a variety of ways such as planned giving, electronic fund transfer, capital giving (investments, insurance policies, etc.)
Discussed statistics of our congregation and what would be involved in increasing our fruitfulness and how to measure. One of the ways to measure passionate worship is attendance numbers; measure intentional faith development by percentage of congregation engaged in small group ministry; measure risk-taking mission in number of people involved in hands-on mission; measure extravagant generosity through percentage of budget dedicated to mission-giving.
Afternoon All-Church Session (all of morning session attendees plus Katie Sample, Nancy dosSantos, Miriam Somero, Dorothy Whiting)
- After lunch we broke into carload groups to go into different parts of Merrimac and record what we saw. Although some were hesitant, upon returning all were surprised at the new insights this exercise provided.
- Gathered again as a large group to share insights about our community from our community drives. Though the weekend weather was stellar and there are many houses, there were very few people observed outside except for a few bicyclists. We also noticed how spread out Merrimac is, and a wide diversity in housing from trailer parks to ultra wealthy new housing developments – we inferred from this a large economic diversity. Some small businesses were noted, but also noted what businesses were missing … grocery store, hardware store, pharmacy.
After large group sharing, we divided into small groups to describe our community, and then reported back to the large group:
- Group 1: Describe our community. Who are the people in our community? Who are we most passionate to reach?
- Merrimac: 2010 demographics include: Median income $58,692; population 6,338, 2,233 households, 98.27% white, .39% African American, .23% Asian, .11% Native American, .29% other. Median age 37; 29% under 18, 5% 18-20, 31.4% 25-44, 23.6% 45-64, 11% 65+ (all were surprised to find how “young” Merrimac is and how we have focused much of our mission on the elderly sector)
- Haverhill: Much more racially diverse with large immigrant population, more economically diverse, includes several schools nearby – Votech and Community Colllege
- Lawrence: Large Latino population, manufacturing town, impoverished
- Other communities within our mission range include Amesbury,Newton, West Newbury, Groveland, Seabrook,Salisbury,South Hamptonand others.
- Group 2: What are the most serious current issues within our community?
- Loss of jobs, foreclosures, loneliness (particularly seniors), drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence
- Group 3: Who in our community are we most passionate about serving?
- Those struggling or affected by drug/alcohol addiction, victims of domestic violence, young inexperienced parents in need of support, single parents, teens
- Group 4: What organizations exist within our community with which we could partner?
- Senior Center, two other churches, Scouts, Lion’s club, Moose Lodge, American Red Cross, Light Department, Mitch’s Place, Emmaus House, Maris Center, Jeanie Geiger House, Safe Recovery, AA, Pettingill House
Next church visioning retreat is tentatively scheduled for February 2, 2013.