Growing Change in an Urban Garden

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BY LYDIAN BERNHARDT AVERITT |

When a professor at a Greensboro college set out in 2013 to help a struggling northeast Greensboro community improve its food choices, he planned to build an urban farm – the city’s first – as part of the project.

In doing so, he built a bridge.

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

The neighborhood had lost its only full-service grocery store in the 1990s, in addition to other areas of decline, and was drifting into being a food desert. Neighbors formed a group, Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro, and approached the professor, who works in the Department of Agribusiness, Applied Economics and Agriscience Education at N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro. He agreed to share his expertise.

“Communities are naturally suspicious of university professors, because they know that we’re going to come in, do our project, collect our data and get our results, then write our papers and leave,” he said. “They are right; projects do end. They have to take it over. So, when I do this development work, I have to make them recognize that they are responsible for their own development.”

But the professor managed to not only help feed a hungry community, but coach its residents to adopt lifestyle changes and take responsibility for their own development. And, while the project itself is in no way religious, it does call to mind Biblical injunctions for feeding the poor and caring for others, and is a powerful reminder about each person’s call to use their skills to help another.

“Do not forget to do good and share with others, for with such sacrifices, God is pleased,” says Hebrews 13:16.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ,” reminds Galatians 6:2.

His ambitious project included surveying neighborhood residents about their eating habits, training them in healthy shopping practices, working with community groups on the urban farm, identifying liaisons in the community to encourage members’ participation, and interacting with the members themselves.

The project seeks to address not just the problem of fresh food availability, but to understand the eating habits that drive people’s food choices and affect their overall health. These habits are based on values so ingrained that they are often not even recognized by the people who hold them.

“Values influence behavior, but it’s all implicit based on their experience,” he said. “We had to make it explicit so they could see clearly how their decisions were based, point out the disadvantages of acting that way, and attach fresh values to the new behavior.  Then, it’s easier to train people to make a different food choice.”

Photo by Lou Liebau on Unsplash

Through his efforts, the project has sunk deep roots into the neighborhood. A co-op grocery is selling the farm’s produce. The White Street area has fresh produce at an affordable price, through the community farm, and the community members have acquired the knowledge to make healthier dietary choices. They have also learned the skills to make healthy meals.

“Give, and it will be given to you,” says Luke 6:38. In supporting a needy community, the givers received a psychological reward themselves.

“It’s easy to put structures up,” the professor says, “It’s harder to marshal the human element. Reinforcement has to be continuous. When members of the community ask if I’m going to stay involved in it, I tell them yes. As long as I am here, I’ll be involved in it.”


Photo via Lydian Averitt

Lydian Bernhardt Averitt is a freelance writer and editor, an amateur musician and a lifelong Moravian who attends First Moravian Church in Greensboro, NC. Contact her at Lydian@triad.rr.com.


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Leaders Develop Leaders

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BY RUTH COLE BURCAW |

Take a look around the church. Who is leading? From where I sit within the provincial organization, nearly everyone in a significant position within an agency or institution share one common life experience… they went to camp. For those of us in the Southern Province of the Moravian Church, that means Laurel Ridge. In fact, many of us actually worked on the M-Staff, where as summer staffers we played guitar, guarded swimmers, led activities, and cleaned lots of bathrooms. If not M-Staff, many leaders once served as counselors or visited Laurel Ridge as a camper. Others served on the Regional Youth Council (RYC), a youth organization made up of representatives from each congregation.

Above: Ruth Cole Burcaw and Butch Sawtelle at Laurel Ridge, during their time on staff (circa 1987). Butch has gone on to provide leadership in his local congregation, on the Mission Society board, and at Laurel Ridge. Ruth serves in provincial leadership.

I know that my own Moravian leadership journey began with my service on RYC, where I served as president while in high school. I worked on M-Staff during my college years in the summers of 1985, 1986, and 1987. And while there were several intermittent years where I focused on raising my family, I never left the church. I served in leadership in a variety of ways in my local congregations. In my early 40s, I became more involved at the provincial level and was elected to the Board of Christian Education, one of the predecessor boards to the agency I currently serve as Executive Director–the Board of Cooperative Ministries.

Why am I a leader in the Moravian Church? Is it because I’m a preacher’s daughter who grew up with the church hard-wired into my DNA? Is it because I’m a somewhat ambitious, overachieving first-born child? Or is it my natural bossiness, my “take-charge” personality? Or that my parents raised me to believe I could do anything I put my mind to and worked hard to accomplish? Circumstance, birth order, personality, nurture. Surely these all play a role, but ultimately, I believe I am where I am today for two primary reasons: 1) my leadership capability emerged from my lived experience as a young Moravian, and 2) I had mentors who believed in me and encouraged me to use my giftedness so I might strive to become all that God created me to be.

“Transformative leaders create the atmosphere, context, and support that enable and stimulate people to generate the needed transformational change. When the possibilities and giftedness of people are nurtured and when they are invited to be part of the vision and solutions to the challenges facing the organization, it is then and only then that the culture of the organization begins to adjust and adapt.” -Gary Nelson

Let’s be honest: the Moravian Church is small. If we count our brothers and sisters around the world, we are talking about just over a million people. Put us up next to the Catholics (70 million in the US alone), the Southern Baptists (15 million), or even our newest ecumenical partners, the Methodists (12 million), and the less than 40,000 members in North America seem rather insignificant. Do the math. Given our small numbers, our capacity to produce transformative leaders is also small.

But I’m hopeful. Our church is full of Jesus-loving, faith-living, justice-seeking men and women who model the way for our young adults and children. When I think about the amazing Moravians who inspired and encouraged me throughout my life, including a few who are now pastors, professors, and even bishops, I know that we absolutely can empower and build a new generation of Moravian leaders.

Above: Butch’s daughter, Kathleen Sawtelle, is part of the 2018 Laurel Ridge M-Staff (her brother Michael is facilities director there). Ruth’s son, Jake Burcaw, is interning at camp and is believed to be Laurel Ridge’s first 3rd generation staffer. Jake’s grandfather, the late Hal Cole, was one of the first staffers (M-Boys) to work at Laurel Ridge, cutting trails with Bishop George Higgins. He served as a Moravian pastor for over 40 years.

If we desire future generations to carry on and reimagine our Moravian heritage in the coming years, we must work intentionally to develop the Moravian leaders who will emerge from our congregations and our unique programs and ministries.

Who are the emerging leaders in your congregation? Who can you support, encourage, and mentor?

What you do and say matters – be a mentor to someone in your church or at camp. Encourage them. Listen. Invite them to participate, to lead. Create opportunities. Affirm their innovation and their call. Provide them with a lived experience that they can use for the rest of their life to follow Jesus in serving the world.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ruth Cole Burcaw is the Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries for the Moravian Church, Southern Province and a member of Unity Moravian Church. She’s pictured above with her father, the Rev. Dr. Hal Cole.


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Total Commitment

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BY JUSTIN RABBACH |

The Church as a Community of Service: Jesus Christ came not to be served but to serve. From this, His Church receives its mission and its power for its service, to which each of its members is called. We believe that the Lord has called us particularly to mission service among the peoples of the world. In this, and in all other forms of service both at home and abroad, to which the Lord commits us, He expects us to confess Him and witness to His love in unselfish service. (The Ground of the Unity)

“If you want things done right, do it yourself.” That is a common phrase, and I admit describes how, at times, I have a hard time completely handing off projects. This is true when I have a particular vision and a particular way I think something should be done. Still, in my experience, this phrase usually is a reflection of not allotting ample time to adequately prepare the people I am asking to help me. And not a reflection of their ability to complete a task to my satisfaction. In these instances then, this phrase becomes an excuse. I have to do it all, if I want it done in time. Or, maybe I just don’t want to invest the time to help prepare someone with less experience, as in the short term that would be more work.

Do you ever experience this feeling? Or, do you ever witness this attitude in the church? Has someone taken on a role in the church, and then held onto it forever? Does that help the next person in line? More importantly, does that fit into the value of discipleship held strongly within the church?

As I begin work in a new role in the church (Executive Director of Board of World Mission), I find myself reflecting on those who have come before me, and how grateful I am for the ways they have helped prepare me. There actions remind me that we aren’t expected to take part in the great co-mission (note the “co” part of that) without God, and without one another!

In college, I led my first international mission team to Nicaragua. I had called up a bunch of camp friends to see if they would join me in doing some hurricane relief work, and when they all said yes, I was on the hook to actually make it happen! Well, we did, and it was a great trip, and I was invited to speak about it in several different Moravian Congregations. One of those congregations was Lake Auburn Moravian Church in Minnesota. As I got ready to give my message, I must admit that it was going to be one of “Look at the new thing that is happening! Look at the example these young adults are setting, and collectively you, as the church, should come get on board with this whole mission work thing!”

Well, it turns out the person introducing me that day was Rev. Lorenz Adam, who had not only served as a missionary in Central America for many years, but had been the Pastor at my church since I was born, and had baptized me. My parents still had some of his old missionary barrels (basically the equivalent of moving boxes for missionaries back in the day) stored in a building on their farm! On top of that, Lorenz chose that day to present, as a gift to the congregation, a somewhat famous painting (in Moravian circles) of David Zeisberger preaching as a missionary to the Native Americans in Ohio during the 1700s.

Image of David Zeisberger

Image of David Zeisberger. Public domain image via Ohio Historical Society/Wikipedia.

Talk about being hit over the head with irony. I was going to speak about the “new thing” I was helping to start, following a presentation clearly demonstrating the long history of the thing I was about to claim to have started.

I had to change my message (and my thinking) on the fly that day, and it stays changed to this day when I speak on missions. Instead of looking for support of the new thing that is about me, I work hard to remember that it is about God’s story, and the deep honor it is to be a part of it.

Come full circle, and at an event organized by the Board of World Mission in 2016 to help engage young adults in mission, I was able to be the one making the introduction of another speaker. At this event where I was trying to live out the call to help disciple to those who come after us, I was able to introduce a very special woman who came before me: Nora Adam.

For all the ways we worked to try and make the event relevant to young adults, to incorporate technology and up-to-the-minute breakthroughs in group facilitation theory, the most powerful moment was a simple speech by the wife of the pastor Lorenz I mentioned earlier. Nora was given free reign to share whatever story was on her heart, and she choose to speak on the theme of “total commitment.”

To speak with authority on this topic, you cannot have anyone guessing if you yourself were totally committed. She spoke with authority by speaking of the way she lived her faith, shared her love, and lived a life filled with hope.

Watch her presentation yourself, and see how powerful her words are, shared from a lifetime of experience.

My prayer for you, and for me, is that as we undertake God’s mission for us, we can take it on with total commitment. That and may our commitment be a witness to others, as we invite them to join in as well!


Questions? Comments? Contact Justin at Justin@MoravianMission.org

Image of Justin Rabbach

Photo via Justin Rabbach

Justin Rabbach is the Executive Director of the Board of World Mission of the Moravian Church in North America. He lives in Wisconsin with his wife Jessie, and dog Lambeau. Justin has spent the last decade immersed in Moravian Mission work through the BWM, starting as a short -term volunteer, Antioch servant, Director of Mission Engagement, and now Executive Director. He is excited to help carry forward the work of so many who have come before him. 


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Christ the Chief Elder

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BY THE REV. JOE MOORE |

Photo of communion

Andrew David Cox, the Moravian BCM

This week Moravians around the world celebrate one of the things that makes us unique–our understanding of Jesus Christ as the Chief Elder of the Moravian Church. At a Synod in London in 1741, the Moravian leaders struggled to elect a new Chief Elder. The office had been vacated when Leonard Dober decided that, after having served as Chief Elder for six years, the job had become too much for one person.

Image of Johann Leonhard Dober (1706-1766)

Johann Leonhard Dober (1706-1766) | Public Domain Image

In the years between 1735 and 1741, the Moravian Church had grown rapidly from an isolated community in Germany to worldwide mission movement. After coming to the conclusion that no one person possessed the essential characteristics and gifts necessary, the Synod asked the question, “Would not the Lord our Savior be so gracious as to accept this office for himself?”

On September 14, 1741, Jesus Christ was officially named Chief Elder of the Moravian Church. Being in the days before email, text messages, and cellphones, it was decided that time was needed to spread the news around the Moravian world. November 13 was chosen as the day for all Moravians to celebrate the selection of Christ as Chief Elder.

Even now, over 275 years later, many congregations will celebrate Christ as Chief Elder with Holy Communion and/or a lovefeast on the Sunday closest to November 13. For me, having been born and raised in the Moravian church, I have always understood that Jesus is the head of our denomination. However, I’ve never really given it much thought, beyond knowing it as one of those things that makes the Moravian church different from other denominations. But is it something that is still relevant to the Moravian church in 2017? And what does it really mean to claim Christ as Chief Elder?

The Ground of the Unity (the doctrinal statement of the Moravian Church) says, “Jesus Christ is the one Lord and Head of His body, the Church. Because of this, the Church owes no allegiance to any authority whatsoever which opposes His dominion. The Unitas Fratrum treasures in its history the vital experience of the Headship of Christ of 16 September and 13 November 1741.”

Stained glass seal at Olivet Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC | Andrew David Cox, the Moravian BCM

It is clear from this that the Moravian church continues to recognize Jesus as the head of the church and, beyond celebrating it as something from our history with little contemporary relevance, considers it to be an important doctrine. In other words, it is not just something that our Moravian ancestors believed and we remember, but it is also the belief of the Moravian Church today. The language used may be a bit different, as the Ground of the Unity uses the phrase “Head of the Church” as opposed to Chief Elder, but the idea is the same.

It’s important that we understand that Jesus has been and is the head of the Moravian Church. But it is even more important that we understand what it means to recognize Christ as our Chief Elder. First it means that we look to Jesus for guidance, counsel, inspiration, and direction in ALL that we do. We rely on his leadership to help our church to be a reflection of his light in a dark world, we rely on his guidance to allow our lives to be a source of his love in a world filled with hate.

Vicit agnus noster, eum sequamur (Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow Him)

Jesus is the best kind of leader. He is one who knows what it is like, he is one who has seen first hand how hard it is to do what we are called to do. He is one who has seen how dark this world is and how much it needs his light. Jesus is one who knows how much hate there is in this world and how much it needs his love. As we read in Hebrews, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are.” (Hebrews 4:15)  Another way to say this would be, “For we do not have a Chief Elder who is unable to sympathize with our struggles, but we have one who in every respect has been challenged as we are.”

Jesus has been here, he has done what we are called to do. He knows how to lead us and guide us to be the people he has created us to be and to be the church that he calls us to be. He knows the challenges that we face and he can help us to overcome them and share his light and his love.

Photo of church Seal

Moravian Seal, or Agnus Dei, stained glass window in the Rights Chapel at Trinity Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC | The Rev. John Jackman, CC BY-SA 3.0

That is what it really means to claim Christ as our Chief Elder. It means that we are following the lead of someone who knows the way. On this day, as we celebrate our Chief Elder, as we remember how he loves us and gave his life for us, let us reclaim him as our Chief Elder, as Chief Elder of our church and of our lives. Let us follow him out of the dark and into the light. Let him lead us into love that overcomes hate.


Bio photo of Joe Moore

Photo via the Rev. Joe Moore

 

The Rev. Joe Moore is the Associate Pastor of New Philadelphia Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC.  He has served in team ministry with his wife, the Rev. Kelly Moore, at Palmyra Moravian (NJ), Mayodan Moravian (NC), First Moravian Church of Georgia, and Fries Memorial Moravian (NC). Joe also served as the Chair of the Board of World Mission and as Assistant to the President of the Provincial Elders’ Conference. He is active in camping ministry at Laurel Ridge. (Portion of bio via NewPhilly.org)


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Erdmuthe: The Beloved and Blest “Lady Mother”

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FROM THE MEMOIR OF ERDMUTHE ZINZENDORF |

 

Erdmuthe

Erdmuthe Dorthea von Zinzendorf, also know as “Lady Mother” and the respected foster-mother of the Church

Bringing Herrnhut Into a Flourishing Condition

During the years, the heavenly Father had blessed and prospered our “Lady Mother” in every way, especially in this country, so that everybody watched it with amazement. He gave success to the service of her business assistants, especially the Brethren von Peistel and Sigmund von Gersdorf; and brought her beloved Herrnhut into a flourishing condition, useful to the Lord and to the country.

He also permitted her, and her son-in-law, and her husband to plan for the internal financial affairs of the Unity, so that when the Ordinarius of the Unitas Fratrum (Count Zinzendorf, and his son (Bishop John von Watteville) had effected the sacrifices undertaken for the people, the financial affairs of the Unity were brought into proper order and were conducted with blessing. These plans were so wonderfully supported and brought to pass that not only was the necessary fund fairly well established during the past years, but the current expenses, on a yearly average, were reduced by a ton of gold ($100,000.000).

Count Zinzendorf, perhaps the most instantly recognizable leader of the Moravian Church. He was married to Erdmuthe from 1722 until her death in 1756 | Photo by Mike Riess/IBOC

She spent more than 750,000 Reichstahaler for building and farming respectively, which was carefully used; and like the Unity debts, she not only paid the interest but reduced the five percent or six percent debts by over 600,000 Reichsthaler within a period of ten years.

Herrnhut, Germany - looking at the church | Photo by Mike Riess/IBOC

Herrnhut, Germany – looking at the church | Photo by Mike Riess/IBOC

For the large sums which she lent to the Unity, she never charged more than 1/8%, and that more as a matter of recognition than that she expected to collect it. In order to further this matter, she set aside so little for the support of herself and her children that it was hardly worth mentioning in view of her large possessions and many enterprises. Until her blessed home-going, that is for nearly thirty years, she was the benefactress of Herrnhut.

Page 12, paragraphs one through three 

Last Year of Life: 1755-1756

In short, her grace spent this last year with her family, as contentedly and as blessedly as any of her life. Moreover, according to her custom, she slept little, rising early. And though she was busy all day with others, for all had free access to her, and her room was always full of high and humble until late at night, yet by her activity in the early morning hours, she found sufficient time for consideration of the holy humanity of the Head of the Church. Then she offered her prayers for all the congregations; then she had the so-called Gemein Wochen and the Nachrichten read aloud in the room; and so she remained in uninterrupted touch with the entire Unity.

She had intended, after the Synod, to visit her 81 year old mother-in-law, who was ill, but was prevented by her own weakness. The Creator of her soul, and the Director of her breath, who had arranged that it should go well with her on earth, was now to make good His promise to make her a soft bed at the end.

She attended the first session of Synod as usual, and intended to spend several days there, which she did in alternating good spirits and weariness, looking to others more ill than she felt. No special symptom manifested itself in her illness, except the extraordinary weakness.

Anna Nitschmann

Anna Nitschmann, a leader of the Moravian Church in her own right. She would later marry Count Zinzendorf in 1757. | Image: Anna Nitchsmann painting. The Unity Archives Herrnhut: GS.67

Two days before her end, Anna Nitschmann, who had been her assistant for twenty years, paid her a quite ordinary visit, neither being conscious that it would be the last. The Countess kissed Anna’s hand tenderly many times during the visit, and continued to throw kisses to her as long as she was in sight. Then she continued in her usual routine of life until one hour before her release. Suddenly, in the presence of a large group of people, who had come as usual to visit her, she gently bowed her head and passed away.

Fortunately, it was Communion day, when the countless tears shed by the congregation over their loss could be mixed with tears of love and joy in their Redeemer; and truly this lessened a thousand-fold the pain, and enabled the congregation to take a share in the blessedness of their beloved and blest “Lady Mother.”

Page 13, paragraphs one through three

Herrnhut, Germany – God’s Acre | Photo by Mike Riess/IBOC

 


November 4: Leading the Way: Women in the Moravian Church Through the Centuries

What can Moravian women in our history teach us about being the church today?

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Wednesday, by 11:59 PM on November 1, is the LAST day to register for this event. Register now at PlanetReg.com/LeadingTheWay

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Erdmuthe picture

The above blog content is comprised of excerpts from the Memoir of the respected foster-mother of the Church Erdmuth Dorothea, who passed blessedly into the arms and bosom of Jesus at Herrnhut, June 19th, 1756 

Questions? Comments? Contact the BCM at BCM@MCSP.org


Read and/or download the full memoir here, courtesy the Moravian Archives, Southern Province: download [LINK]

Visit the Moravian Archives, Southern Province online at MoravianArchives.org


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If You Do it, it Will Happen…

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BY AMY LINVILLE |

"Buck passing" graphic

In the church world, we categorize ourselves into boards, committees, subcommittees, and circles. We have fellowship groups, small groups, Sunday school classes, and age-based activity groups. We are teachers, pastors, lay members, bishops, provincial leaders, church staff, and so many things. These categorizations are useful and community-building in so many ways. They are meant help us interact with each other, delegate the work of the church, and serve others more effectively.

But what these can sometimes prevent is real action. We can get lost in a circular system of passing a task between committees. Or, we might be too afraid to step on toes or take away a task that we feel is traditionally the “turf” of someone else. We wait, talk, vote, evaluate, affirm, legislate—we do everything but act. It can be infuriating to watch and experience. All the while, a need or passion is left in limbo. The things we care about are not getting done because we are too afraid or reticent to act.

Do you know what this sounds like to me? We don’t care enough. If we truly cared, we would make it happen. I know we are all busy and have many obligations. We are all obligated to outside forces and live in a world where our actions impact others. BUT. But, we are also all (most who read this blog) adults, who make our own priorities. If you truly make something a priority and dedicate yourself to something, you will see it through to some kind of fruition. It might not be your original vision, but something will happen. Sometimes that’s better. If you make the good and bright future of your church a priority, something will happen! If you dedicate yourself to the renewal of your church that you love, not just improvement of the same things that make you comfortable, it will happen. I’m certain. Yell at me in 20 years if it doesn’t, but at least you will have done something that you care about in the mean time.

"Just do it" graphic

Joel Osteen is under a great deal of criticism lately. He did not immediately open the door of his megachurch and its network to stranded residents of Houston searching for a place to rest after hurricane Harvey displaced them. I don’t want to defend him, and he doesn’t need defending, but there is something more there. A friend of mine made me realize that there are thousands of members of that church. Any one of them could have started a grassroots movement to utilize the gifts of THEIR collective church. The church doesn’t belong to the pastor or staff, but all of the members and brave souls who call themselves members of the church community. The pastor and staff support, respond to, and are at least partially beholden to you, the rest of the church. They can be powerful leaders in the church, but they cannot do it all by themselves. We cannot expect them to do it all, and especially not to everyone’s ideals. We need to be leaders and do-ers, too!

Quote graphic

This is not a blame game. We already know that gets us nowhere. This is to remind all of us that we are excitingly responsible for what happens in our church. We have the power to enact change in your church; we can be the revolution! We don’t need to wait on our pastors or staff to do something, we can do it ourselves (they are too busy figuring out the fickle church printer, anyway).

photo of hand reaching out

Now, disclaimer, this is not a free pass to bypass all church protocols, committees, and leaders (paid or otherwise) to do whatever you want. Conferential systems are good (yay checks and balances) and these processes were set up for a reason. All I’m asking is that you don’t let these things stop you from taking ownership of and action for your church and your passions. If you care about something, then take constant action towards it. And if we do it, it will happen. And, hopefully, God will look down at us and our work, declaring “it is good.”


Questions? Comments? Contact Amy Linville at Amy@MoravianBCM.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404

Amy Linville

Amy Linville is the College Age Ministry Coordinator for the Moravian BCM. She spends her time outside of work taking classes to become a librarian, serving Rural Hall Moravian with her husband the Rev. Aaron Linville, and snuggling her puppy and two cats.

Time to Be Bold – Part Two

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In my last post, I declare that it’s time to be bold again, and I end with the question:

“How do we as the church best respond in these uncertain times to ensure that God’s grace is known far and wide through our witness and action?”

How indeed. I told you to stay tuned, then I hit the publish button and took a deep breath, because here’s the thing, folks: I have no idea.

Okay, that’s not quite true. As someone who has spent my life helping others do what they do better, and who feels a deep sense of call to my beloved Moravian Church, I have plenty of ideas. And, if you know me at all, you know I am certainly not shy about sharing my opinions. But they are just that. Mine. It is not up to me to tell you how we go about being the church in the future. This is not an individual activity, and no one individual, regardless of his or her dedication, brilliance, charisma, or position, has all the answers.

So let me tell you what I DO know:

  • The river has moved, people. Consider the Choluteca Bridge in Honduras, built to withstand river-that-moveddeadly hurricanes. When Hurricane Mitch came along in 1998, it dumped 75 inches of rain in less than four days and destroyed 150 bridges, but it could not destroy the Choluteca. But take a closer look at that photo. The bridge survived the storm, but the storm moved the river! Similarly, the institutional church is strong and has weathered many storms over the centuries, but the river has moved. While the temptation is great to try and redirect the massive river back under that bridge, the work set before us is to build a new bridge.
  • The Church is facing an adaptive challenge. There are two types of challenges that leaders in any field have to address:
    • Technical challenges are situations we’ve encountered numerous times and require quick fixes, problem solving, or consultation with experts. Examples of this include going to a mechanic when your car breaks down or visiting the dentist to fix a broken tooth.
    • Adaptive challenges are situations that present new dilemmas and uncharted territory. Adaptive challenges require not the predefined answers of experts, but the hard work of discernment by those most affected by the problem. Examples include solving world hunger or reforming public education.

There is no road map for the journey we are on. We’ll have to learn new ways of thinking and doing, use our imaginations, and discern solutions with each other, the ones most affected by these uncertain, complex times.

  • With great challenge comes great possibility. We know the river has moved and we know that
    first-fruits-or-erstlingsbild

    Count Zinzendorf ‘s bold vision of of the Renewed Moravian Church, as captured by 18th century artist John Valentine Haidt in the painting “First Fruits.”

    what we face is a complex, adaptive challenge. But our history as Moravians proves that we can rise to the occasion. While persecution, exile, and the sorry state of the human condition immobilized and frightened many of their day, our early Moravian brothers and sisters discovered opportunity and even beauty in those constraints. These bold followers of Jesus blazed forward, undeterred, as they expressed spirituality in community, welcomed women into ministry, embraced diversity, and sacrificed nearly everything for their mission. Over the years, though, we modern-day Moravians have grown slowly complacent in our comfortable sanctuaries. We are keepers of our great heritage, but what about the boldness? How do we take the constraints we face today, such as declining membership, shrinking resources, or competing values, and create opportunities to share faith, love, and hope with the world? Settling in and doing what we’ve always done will not solve the challenges we face. Now is the time to demonstrate creativity, openness, flexibility, and yes, boldness.

  • Transformative leadership is required. Transformative leaders focus on motivation and formation, and they do it out of a deep sense of call. I’m not just talking about clergy. We all must be transformative as we encourage one another. Transformative leaders create environments that enable people to survive and thrive through change. When we nurture the giftedness and possibilities of people and invite them to be part of the solutions we seek, it is only then that our organizational culture begins to adjust and adapt. Interested in knowing more about what transformative leadership looks like? Consider being part of the next Moravian Leadership experience. We need you!
  • We have to do this together. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, tells us how we are to live as the community that is the church. We are to live with each other like Christ – being relational, forgiving, patient, loving, and gentle. And before we can do that, we have to know we are holy, chosen, and dearly beloved by God (3:12).

We must love each other, even when we disagree about many things. As I write this, the PCUSA is holding its 222nd General Assembly (similar to our Synod) in Portland, Oregon. Bruce Reyes-Chow, a Presbyterian minister and author, reflected on Facebook about his experience there:

“One of the most difficult, but essential and transformational, aspects of meetings like General Assembly is when friends and colleagues passionately disagree with one another, the vote is taken, and we choose to remain friends and colleagues. While some might see this as a lack of integrity, selling out or even, “dining with the devil,” I see this as the living expression of mutual forbearance, the body faithfully discerning the will of God, and ultimately, why I choose to claim my seat at the table that Christ has prepared.”

Let’s continue to sit together at Christ’s table even as we face forces that would tear us apart.

  • We have to know WHY we’re doing it. We get so overwhelmed by life and its accompanying challenges it is very easy to forget why we are here, in this place, together. Christ and Him crucified remain our confession of faith. What else can we do but respond to this gift of grace with our faith in God, our love for God and our neighbor, and our hope in this life and the next?

During the 2012 Moses Lectures at Moravian Theological Seminary, Peter Vogt, co-pastor of the Moravian Congregation of Herrnhut (yes, THAT Herrnhut) reminded us that “we . . . are called to live as a community that is faithful to the message of God’s love, as given to us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” He concludes by saying that

“our concern about the identity of what it means to be Moravian should not be guided by the fear of loss…or by the focus on preserving our historical heritage, but rather by the desire to become what God is calling us to be.”

Indeed. Let’s embrace these beautiful constraints we face as a Church today and, together, determine what God is calling us to be, then do it and be it. Amen.

 

References:

Heifetz, Ronald A., and Martin Linsky. Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, 2002. Print.

McFayden, Kenneth J. Strategic Leadership for a Change: Facing Our Losses, Finding Our Future. Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2009. Print.

Morgan, Adam, and Mark Barden. A Beautiful Constraint: How to Transform Your Limitations into Advantages, and Why It’s Everyone’s Business. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2015. Print. (View more on this idea here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfVJpEnh7wCJJoO5tS3EYZg)

Nelson, Gary V. Rev. Dr., and Peter M. Dickens. Leading in DisOrienting Times Navigating Church and Organizational Change. Ashland: Christian Board Of Pub Tcp, 2015. Print.

Vogt, Peter. “How Moravian Are the Moravians? The Paradox of Moravian Identity.” The Hinge: International Theological Dialog for the Moravian Church. Volume 19, Issue 3 (Winter 2013-14): 3-20. Moravian Theological Seminary. Center for Moravian Studies. Web. 24 June 2016. https://issuu.com/moravianseminary/docs/hinge_19.3 .

 

Ruth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries. She and her family are members of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC. Below, Ruth and her family celebrate daughter Jessy’s graduation from Appalachian State University in May 2015. 

jess grad