|Photo by snowmentality (via Flickr)|
I've been talking recently about how "seeking the peace of the farm town" has been my mantra for living and ministering in the rural communities of Tama & Toledo, Iowa, since moving here last year.
This phrase is an adaptation of the Lord's commandment in Jeremiah 29, addressed to the exiles in Babylon in the 6th century BCE. The command is to "seek the peace/welfare/shalom of the city to which I've sent you into exile." The exhortation is an echo of the creational mandate found all the way back in Genesis, to "be fruitful and multiply," and that in seeking the welfare of the pagan city (and empire) in which they found themselves, God's people would find their own welfare.
I fell in love with this text in seminary, wrote a paper on it, and posted it here a few years ago. It became a paradigm for me, helping shape my early thoughts about what my church ministry might look like after seminary. In particular, I've found the thematic metaphors of "building" and "planting" throughout both Jeremiah and Isaiah to be particularly, um, productive ones. So church planting and community peace-building have for years now been inseparable concepts in my theological reasoning, and practical mission/ministry planning. My aim has been toward forming worshipping communities with community peacebuilding teachings and practices wired in from the get-go.
Cultivation takes time and patience and risk - among other things - and planting is just one step in the cyclical process of life (and death). So when I discovered the Slow Church blog a year or two back, which takes its cues from agrarian-minded sustainability movements, I found another fruitful metaphor for church planting.
Most recently, I've written and submitted a church-planting proposal for my local community that takes cues from this "slow church" movement. As a bi-vocational minister (i.e. I have a day job that is not professional/paid "church ministry" in a congregation), I've committed to a small, open-ended, slow, patient, and discerning approach to church planting, with explicit nods toward community peacebuilding. It's been approved by the committee overseeing these things in my district and is on its way to the Northern Plains District Board for final approval at their meeting next month. I'll outline a few major points below, and embed the entire document at the end if anyone is interested in seeing how I approached this proposal...