Unanimous?: Old First E-pistle 04.05.19

Unanimous?: Old First E-pistle 04.05.19

The vote at the congregational meeting affirming the Joint Venture Ministry Team (JVMT) and the design direction for the new building was unanimous. It is a sign of strong support as we move ahead in a complicated project of many different, interconnecting steps. The JVMT will continue to keep the congregation informed going forward and will be coming back with decisions for the congregation to make as the process proceeds.

But, unanimous doesn’t mean everyone agrees! It means that everyone present at the congregational meeting voted affirmation. There are some jitters, even difficulties imagining all this and what our church life will become. But in general, our community is excited by the prospects of providing homes for people who have been homeless, and getting new, accessible program and office space for the church.

I am aware of a few who have said they don’t want to change our property. Or they find the desire to build as a sign of something else they don’t agree with about our community. And someone else talked to me about a concern that, in the midst of such a huge project, people could begin to feel unimportant.

Mostly, the folks who aren’t supportive haven’t been participating in our planning. I understand and think that’s perhaps to be expected and a decent strategy (although I worry folks who aren’t paying attention might miss information that is important or could make them feel better {or alternately, I guess, could displease them further})…

At Old First, we aim to work by consensus. By that, we do not usually mean 100% agreement, but rather a “comfortable majority.” I would point out, even if we worked on straight numbers, wouldn’t 51% be an awfully divisive victory in a faith community?

I suspect, there is no one in a congregation like Old First who finds everything exactly like they want. Instead, we ask people to expect and live by the 80/20 rule. We hope 80% of what happens at church seems right to you. And we ask you to put up with the other 20% that you would change if you could. We ask you to understand that 20% as that which is you give for another’s needs; room for your practice of patience, selflessness and forgiveness.

Dissent is part of our religious tradition and to be respected. In fact, it’s part of the process that makes the whole stronger. Indeed, we should thank and recognize the courage of our outliers.

Still, every last person not being ready to move is not a reason in our governance for the community to be stayed. And so we move ahead with the project. Why? Because according to how we discern in our community, we believe it will be a blessing for people who have been homeless, and for our church, its ministry and the community we can help create. It’s a big project and will continue to take up some of our time and attention, but not so much that we cannot continue to be all the good things about Old First you treasure.

But now that the broad building plan has been affirmed, we need to get back to the earlier conversation about whether or not to continue the shelter when 34 people live onsite permanently. That’s another decision that doesn’t bring 100% agreement, but we will listen to and respect one another and together get to some less than perfect consensus for moving forward…

See you in church this last Sunday before Palm Sunday,