Monday, December 3, 2012

Settling in, finding a new voice

From Toledo, IA, USA
Christ United Methodist in Toledo; east out my home-office window
It's been quiet for a few weeks here at this little blog. This has mostly to do with being exceedingly busy with moving back to Iowa, moving into an old house in Toledo that needs some tender loving care, and trying to figure out what it's like working remotely for EMU. Things have been busy, we've been tired, but we're settling in and with each passing day it feels like more and more like home.

Another factor contributing to the quiet blog has to do with me trying to find a new voice. No longer am I part of a university community; I'm a small town boy once more. So I'm trying to figure out what the heck I'm going to write about here now that my daily rhythms aren't being shaped by an academic community, which is where this blog was born and raised over the past three years. It's the "organic intellectual" and "missional minister" gig that I've been thinking and writing about but now have to figure out in concrete terms.

What to say, then? Well, the photo above shows something of the new arrangement. We've started worshiping with Christ United Methodist Church, just a block away and plainly visible from any number of places at our place, including out my home-office window where I spend my work days now. This is the congregation in which my wife was raised and her mother still attends and is active. It's also the church my wife and I were married in thirteen years ago, by the Brethren pastor of my home congregation, Tim Peter. My nephew calls it "the castle church," which is fitting.

So despite my being a neo-Anabaptist, a Brethren minister (and anonymous Mennonite), I'm feeling quite at home in our new/old congregational home. What's better, pastor Brian - without hesitation - welcomed me into the congregation with the invitation to help minister in a number of ways, including preaching and some light pastoral care. As a Methodist with multiple charges in the surrounding communities, he seems tickled to be getting a minister-parishioner in his flock.

As a missional minister in a new community, committed to an established congregation outside of my own denominational home, I'm taking the "slow church" approach with respect to planting any new kind of Anabaptist+Pietist (Brethren) fellowship. In this approach I include a commitment to not "steal sheep"; that is, I refuse the inherently competitive (and consumeristic) "attractional" model in favor of a face-to-face, person-to-person process of relationship-building through community engagement and friendships. If a Bible study or house church starts out of that, cool; though there's already a local ecumenical prayer group that meets monthly to pray for various aspects of the community. I missed the meeting last night but have a few acquaintances in that group that I hope and pray grow into something fruitful. I'll also be getting involved with the local ministers association on town, which I'm looking forward to.

Well, that's the early report from my "new nearby" of Toledo, Iowa...on Ohio Street.

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