After months of discernment, we at Capitol Hill Friends have reached some clarity on how to move forward in 2013. For the past several years, we have been a small worship group, holding weekly meetings for worship which were consistently deep and spiritually powerful. Yet, despite these years of deep worship, our community never reached critical mass. We never made the leap from being a worship opportunity to being a worshiping community.
This fall, we concluded that our model of regular meetings for worship had not produced a growing and maturing community. For more than two years, our core group had remained constant, and there was no sign of any real change on the horizon. It became increasingly clear to us that, unless we were willing to let Capitol Hill Friends go, it would never bear fruit.
Change is hard, which is probably why it took us several years to be brought to this point. In the last few months, however, we have put everything on the table. Meeting time, location, format - even whether to continue as Capitol Hill Friends at all. As far as we have known how, we have laid everything at Jesus' feet. We surrendered our own ideas about what this community should look like. We invited the Holy Spirit in to re-form us and put us back on the right path.
As a result of this process of discernment, we are emerging with a very different vision of what kind of community God is calling us to be. Rather than a group that focuses on holding a worship service, we feel called to place most of our emphasis on developing mutually supportive community. We want to pray for one another, read the Bible together, and come to know one another as human beings.
We sense that as we come to know and support one another in our walk of faith, powerful worship will once again emerge at Capitol Hill Friends. But, this time, worship will be the fruit of deep personal relationships and vibrant community life. As we walk together in the light of God's love, we seek to become an organic whole, knit together in the Spirit.
What does this mean, practically? Our change of heart has resulted in a change of strategy. Let me provide an outline of what we expect the next few months to look like.
First, we will be kicking off the new year with a dinner party on Capitol Hill. We want to sit down and break bread with everyone who might be interested taking these next steps together with us. At this dinner (on Saturday, January 12th), we will lay out the details of our new strategy for developing into a community that can bless our city, the region and the world with the love of Jesus. While we hope there will be a lot of good discussion at the dinner, I will lay out here a brief sketch of how we see our strategy playing out in the next few months.
In February/March, we plan to launch the first cycle of small group. This group of 7-12 will gather once a week for six weeks, at a time and location that is mutually workable for everyone involved. Each of the weekly meet-ups will include personal check-ins, a shared exploration of the Bible, and an opportunity for worship and prayer. Each session should last no more than an hour and a half. At the end of the six weeks, the small group will do some discernment together about how they would like to proceed. We hope that many of the participants will want to do another cycle, and it is possible that the small group will have grown enough that it will make sense to establish new small groups in other parts of the city.
We know that not everyone will have the time, energy or interest to get involved in this first cycle of small group, and we think that having some opportunity for a larger gathering is important. For this reason, we plan to begin holding one public meeting for worship each month. The format for the public meetings will be different from before. As with the small groups, we hope to keep these meetings to no more than an hour and a half. We hope that by limiting the time commitment, we might make both our small groups and public meetings more accessible to everyone who would like to participate.
These are broad strokes, and there is a lot more to discuss! I hope that everyone who lives in the DC area and is interested in getting involved in this new evolutionary stage of our community will try to make it to the dinner this January. (For those of you living a bit further north, we know that some folks from Baltimore will be coming down - so let me know if you could use a ride.) Whether you can make it to the dinner or not, I hope we can be in conversation about how to move forward together.
There are signs of a grassroots spiritual awakening taking place across the United States, and I feel hopeful that 2013 will be a momentous year - not only for our community here in DC, but for an entire network of sisters and brothers who are committed to seeking peace, justice and reconciliation as we walk together in the way of Jesus.