Much of the work performed by our congregation’s leaders isn’t seen. We see the results of their work, but often not the work itself. The Sunday School teachers have curricula to work with because of the work we don’t see of exploring, evaluating, and sometimes writing performed by the Ministry of Christian Education Team. We have bread and juice to eat at communion because of the work we don’t see of preparation performed by the Ministry of Spiritual Life Team that starts before many of us are at church for worship.
Now that we’re in our new facility, our Ministry of Property Team has been doing work we don’t see. This has included looking at the facilities use policies with an eye toward suggesting revisions for the Cabinet to make. (The Cabinet is the policy-making body of our congregation). The current Niles Discovery Church facilities use policies are essentially the policies inherited from Niles Congregational Church and were not used during the past year when we were no longer the owners of the property at 255 H Street. Now we are in a facility that houses many of our ministries and that will be used by groups outside our congregation. We need to know what our expectations and rules are so everyone who uses the facilities is clear.
One of the policies that we inherited from Niles Congregational Church is a “no alcohol” policy. I know that policy was adopted by Niles Congregational Church more than a decade ago because it was the policy when I started my call there. This particular policy is being re-examined by the Ministry of Property Team and the fact that it is even being considered has raised some concerns.
So the Cabinet is asking the Ministry of Property to step back from that particular element of our facilities use policies so we can engage in some conversation as a congregation. We need to hear each other’s stories before we start talking about how the policy might be reshaped (and I stress the word “might” and remind you that there are many, many ways the policy could be reshaped). Only after we have heard each other’s stories will the Ministry of Property Team and the Cabinet work on a proposal, and that will come back to the congregation before any action is taken on it.
Here’s the plan in more detail.
On Sunday, August 9, following worship, the members of the Cabinet will host small groups called “Circles of Inquiry.” The goal of a Circle of Inquiry is to give many views their voice, to investigate an issue by asking sincere questions, and telling stories of how that issue related to each participant. The Circles will not work on specific policy options or seek to find solutions. They are a place for us to share our stories, to speak our truths. While specific stories will stay in the groups, the range and types of concerns will be shared in the following Cabinet meeting so they can influence the nuances of a possible policy.
The Cabinet hopes to have a specific policy proposal written, influenced by the stories shared, that will be discussed in a Town Hall Meeting on Sunday, September 20, following worship. Depending on how that Town Hall Meeting goes, the Cabinet will make a decision about our alcohol policy at their meeting on September 21 or at their meeting in October.
Of course, this plan will only work if people participate, so I hope that you will be at worship and stick around for the Circles of Inquiry on August 9 (if you’re in the area). If we share honestly and listen to each other compassionately, the Holy Spirit will guide our work.