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The Local Church

The Local Church - Update 1

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Recently, as part of a town hall gathering at the Well, our weekly time to eat together and grow in our faith, I offered an update on the new Christ UMC campus in Chatham Park. If you weren’t able to make it, I wanted to offer the updates here in another format so that you not only stay in the loop, but also know how you can continue to support and pray for this new thing God’s doing.

Since We Last Met
We last gathered for a formal update in June 2017. We told you then that we know a little bit, but there’s a lot we still don’t know — and that’s okay! Over the last seven months, we have come to know more than we did, but there are still many unknowns. We promised to update you when we knew more, so… here goes.

Stakeholders Team
Last summer, the Church Council chartered a team of stakeholders called, fittingly, the Stakeholders Team. The Stakeholders Team meets periodically, as appropriate and as needed, to review and discuss development plans and the progress in executing those plans. The Stakeholders Team also offers laity-based guidance and support to me in my role as the planting pastor for this new faith community within the overall life of Christ United Methodist Church. This team will meet until an equivalent administrative advisory committee is formed in Chatham Park.

This team includes the Senior Pastor, District Superintendent, Director of New Faith Communities for the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, and various committee chairs from Christ UMC. The team also includes key leaders from the Lead Team of the new faith community in Chatham Park. And speaking of the Lead Team…

Lead Team
Beginning in July 2017, we also began forming a Lead Team for the new church in Chatham Park. This team of 10(ish) people is the core group of pioneers responsible for visioning, praying for, and executing God’s dream for our faith community in Chatham Park. We have been hard at work discerning who God is, who we are, and who God is calling us to be, and the team is also working closely with me to think critically, problem solve, and begin laying the foundation for all that is ahead. The Lead Team meets weekly in homes and third spaces throughout Chatham County to listen, learn, and respond faithfully.

Revised Timeline
We have simplified and revised our timeline into (for now) three phases of development:

Phase One: Culture / Values / Identity (July through December 2017) — developing core values, figuring out what we could call ourselves, and discerning our place in the community and religious fabric of Chatham County

Phase Two: Relational Discipleship (rolling launch beginning 2018) — a key part of our invitation, mission, and spiritual formation efforts in Chatham County, see below for details

Phase Three: Weekly Worship (Fall 2018)
One additional piece of our timeline has also been revised. We will now be in our “permanent” location in Chatham Park in 2020 at the earliest. This does not affect Phases Two or Three; rather, it merely changes how long we can expect to be “nomadic.”

Core Values
Part of the work of Phase One was identifying the core values that would mark us as a community. We wanted to be able to articulate who we are, what we’re about, and the type of community into which God is shaping us. Together, our Lead Team identified four core values:

As we follow Jesus for the transformation of the world, we believe God is shaping us into a community that is bold, inclusive, with, and for. Here’s what we mean.

Jesus is at the center of all that we are and all that we do, and we seek to boldly carry his good news into the world.

In his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus embodied good news to the poor, outcast and those at the margins. He passionately welcomed the stranger, ate with those the world derided, challenged the powerful, and disrupted the status quo. He brought peace in the midst of turmoil, light to places of darkness, and communion to places of isolation and division. We seek to boldly do the same with our hands, feet, hearts, and voices.

(See Matthew 25:31-40, Luke 4:16-30, John 1:1-5, Colossians 1:15-20.)

God’s love is for everyone, and we seek to be a community of belonging where all are welcome.

Each and every person is made in the image of God, and every story matters. Whether seeker or skeptic, Democrat or Republican, atheist or Christian, old or young, pickup or Prius driver, you belong here and have a place at the table. Jesus is in the business of tearing down walls — in the world and in our hearts. Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, you are truly welcome here and your story matters. We mean it.

(See Genesis 1:26-28, Psalm 24:1-2, Luke 15:11-32, Acts 10:9-34, 1 Corinthians 12:4-26, Galatians 3:26-28.)

As followers of Jesus, God with us, we seek to be with one another, our community, and the world. We believe we are better together.

In Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — we encounter a God who is relational and whose very nature and being is community. God is calling us into that communion with Godself. Along the way, we discover that as we draw closer to God, we draw closer to one another. In a world fraught with division, isolation, and polarization, we believe that the simple act of gathering together to listen, learn, love, and serve can save our lives and change the world. We may not all think alike, but we can all love alike. We are committed to keeping the unity in community.

(See Exodus 3:1-12, Luke 10:25-37, Acts 2:42-47, Romans 12:9-21, Ephesians 4:1-6.)

God is for you and me and all of us. In response, we seek to give of ourselves to the mission of God in and for the world.

God has a dream that all of creation would be mended. It’s a dream that the poor are cared for, the hungry have enough to eat, violence gives way to peace, and everyone has belonging. It’s a dream of second chances, abundant grace, and lives lived fully. God invites us to help make that dream a reality, so we live generous lives — for one another, our community, and the world.

(See Matthew 28:16-20, Romans 8:38-39, James 1:27, Revelation 21:1-6.)

Now about that name...
Our Lead Team spent six months listening to God, the community, and one another. As we prayed and defined our core values, we got to work on a name. Names have power. Names create realities. In our case, to name this thing makes it tangible — makes it come alive. We tried on many names over these few months, but one in particular has stuck:

The Local Church: A Community of Christ United Methodist.

That’s it. That’s the name. We’re calling it the Local Church. Here’s why.

For one, who is Jesus if not God made local? This is what we celebrate at Christmas in the incarnation, and this is who Jesus is — God with flesh and bone and breath, good news with skin on — who has “moved into the neighborhood.”

We like it because it also says something about who we believe God is calling us to be. We are committed to listening, learning, and loving our neighbors in Chatham County — committed to being a faith community with and for Chatham County — committed to loving local, hoping local, celebrating local, and serving local. Whether you are a longtime resident of Chatham County or you’re just making it home, our name sends a message about belonging and mission.

Finally, we like the name because it says something about how we’re organized and what makes us who we are. A key component of our identity will be found in what we’re calling Local Tables. These are groups of 20(ish) people that meet in homes and third spaces throughout the community. What’s more local than a neighborhood or community hangout?

Want to know a bit more about Local Tables? Read on…

Local Tables
Set to roll out in the first few months of 2018, Local Tables will be gatherings in a home or elsewhere in the community designed for 20(ish) people to connect, share meals, stories, and experiences, find intersections with one another, and practice faith. This will happen through spirit-filled conversation and service. Local Tables are made up of people from neighborhoods and networks, and should be places where Sabbath and connection happen.

Each Local Table will be different, but each will have certain things in common. Those who gather can expect to pray together, share a meal, talk about stuff that matters, and receive words of peace and encouragement. Each Local Table will also identify its own place to serve in the community together.

Okay, that’s all for now. Thanks for reading and thanks, also, for praying about what God continues to do through The Local Church in Chatham County and beyond.

Questions? Email Brent at .