Series: Vision 2022
Theme: Vision Sunday 2022
Bible Reading: Romans 12:1-3, 9-13
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Date: 13 February, 2022
Vision Sunday 2022 is an important day in our church year – a time where we cast a Vision of where God is leading us as a church for the next 12 months. Our pastor’s – Phil and Kevin – shared an honest reflection on how we have gone with our church’s vision over the past two years before reminding us again the core aspects of our Vision as well as sharing some idea and planning that is in place for 2022. We hope to stir within us a passion and energy to work with God to bring this vision to life in 2022!
Vision Sunday 2022. A day where we as a individuals and as a church reflect on God’s calling in our lives and how we go about being faithful to that call or bringing God’s Vision to life here at TUC in 2022.
I remember one time in my last church being asked “So why do we have Vision Sunday each year … you obviously get excited by it, but why is it important to do every year?”
Well, there is loads of great research around which says that churches who have a clear picture of where they feel God is leading them and who communicate that Vision regularly with the congregation are usually churches with a higher sense of purpose, participation and ownership. That’s why we do it – because Vision Sunday is helpful in our ongoing desire to live faithfully to God’s call.
But what gets me excited about Vision Sunday is that the values and goals we outline today are more than just a lot of words – they shape and influence what we do over the next 12 months. A bit like a rudder on a boat, Vision Sunday sets the direction in which we are heading in for 2022. And as Church Council and ministry team, and I hope all of us here, commit to working towards achieving the goals that are in our Vision Sunday documents. Vision Sunday help us to keep moving forward.
But as I shared last week, Vision Sunday always happens within a context and the last two years of changes, disruptions and challenges have not only stifled a bit of the enthusiasm for planning and goal setting for 2022 … these disruption and lockdowns have also not been helpful in moving forward our Vision.
At the end of last year, we did some honest reflection on how we have gone with bringing the 2021 Vision to life (and even the 2020 Vision to life) and it was confronting in just how much the COVID and challenges of the past two years has impacted how we have gone working our Vision.
In the little document that we have given out, you can see a report card that we did on ourselves of the 5 major goals that we had set for ourselves in 2020 and 2021. We can put a big tick next to the goal of appointing a second minister to the ministry staff (and Kevin is here as proof), but an honest assessment of the other four goals would say that we have partially achieved some of them but there is much more to go.
How do we respond to a report card like this?
Some of us would want to remind us of the context of the last two years and the difficulty it has been to move forward our Vision due to COVID disruptions. That’s true – it didn’t make sense to do church wide mission planning during a lockdown and COVID has made it very hard to make connections with the local community. Yes, the context of the last two years has impacted on our ability to move the Vision forward.
Other’s would want to argue that while we have not achieved all the Vision goals we have set, we have been able to move forward in other areas – such as our high quality online worship. I would agree with that … but I thought that maybe because Kevin is new and was observing us from the outside last year … maybe Kevin could give us his assessment of what he noticed about TUC from 2021?
When I first knew that I was going to have a meeting with JNC in June last year, I did not know much about Turramurra at all. In fact I did not know Phil nearly at all. So the first thing I did was to go to TUC website. And I was pretty impressed. There was so much happening in the life of this congregation. Even during the lockdown, you had so much happening and kept them very well. Particularly the way online service were delivered on Facebook and website was one of the most advanced and developed among any other Uniting Churches that I know. My first thought was ‘who did that?’ and my second thought was that we should pay that person and set up our zoom/facebook livestreaming service! I believe all TUC community should be proud of what you have developed and maintained during lockdown in 2021.
I want to affirm that I think we can all be super proud of the amazing work and creativity of so many people in the way we were able to keep all three worship services running online as well as things like playgroups, kids church, youth groups, bible studies. We might not have achieved our Vision goals but we were able to move forward in other areas.
But for me, when I look at the report card, it does weigh a little heavy on me … just because I know that when we set Vision goals, we work hard for them not to be just words, but to put these words into actions.
When the Church Council met in late last year and we were discerning what VISION 2022 might look like, the question that came up was, “Do we toss the unrealized or unfulfilled goals we discerned for 2020 and 2021 or is God still calling us to see these goals through”.
Do you understand the question? We had discerned a calling from God to work towards these goals; and while there are legitimate reasons why they were not fulfilled, the question is, does God’s calling still remain? Does God want us to keep working on them to see them through?
Although this is a practical question, I found myself pondering this as a theological question as well. When a calling of God is delayed or disrupted, does the calling still remain or does the calling get cancelled? Is there any Biblical examples of God looping back and reminding people of a calling, or any Biblical examples of God going – let’s move on with something else?
I thought about someone like Jonah, who through stubbornness ran away from God’s calling … but God through the intervention of the large fish said to Jonah, the calling remains. I still want you to go to Nineveh. Or someone like Elijah who was following the call of God but then political circumstances changed and he ended up hiding in the desert where God spoke to him and asked, “What are you doing here?” and reminded him of the call.
But then you also have the words of Jesus in Matthew 10, speaking to the disciples as he sends them out into ministry and saying “Go to these towns and proclaim the kingdom of God has come near. But if they do not receive you, then shake the dust from your feet and move on”.
As I reflected, I sort of concluded when God calls you to do something, then the calling remains – unless you get to a point where you can see it will not make any difference or helping anyone, then it might be time to move on. But a calling of God is something that is important to hold onto.
Certainly when Church Council pondered the question of our 2020 and 2021 unfulfilled Vision Goals, “Does the calling still remain”, the answer was very strongly … YES. We felt that these were good goals that were important in moving our church forward in the direction that God was setting and that we needed to keep working on them.
Therefore, I don’t know if you have noticed by reading this document, but much of the VISION 2022 has a familiar feel about it, as we remain faithful to the call that God has given us in 2020 and 2021.
So, on Vision Sunday, I cast our Vision/goals for 2022. We have discerned that God is calling us to:
Invest some time into refining and renewing Our Vision …
I am a big believer that the Vision of the church is not something that belongs to the ministry team, nor is it from Church Council … but a Vision must come from and be owned by all the church. And the best way for this to happen is for every 3 or 4 years for the church to come together to reflect and discern God’s calling for us and to share ideas and projects that could bring that calling to life.
It has been about 3½ years since we have last done this here at TUC, and so we have set as our goal to invest some time this year into refining and renewing our Vision. This would involve discussions with groups, individuals, key stakeholders and culminating in a church wide “refining our mission” planning day/sessions (in April/May) where we can all bring our voices and ideas to find the best way to renew, refine and refresh our vision.
To start this process, we are inviting everyone to participate in the National Church Life Survey. It is a short online anonymous questionnaire where you can give us an insight into your thoughts and experiences of church, and spirituality. This data will not only be used by the wider church to inform their planning, but will be used by our church in April for our mission planning. The link is now live and up on our website and we really encourage you over the next week to fill in this survey.
And as I said, we will use this data and the input from the group discussion to feed into a couple of church wider planning days.
Last time we did this it brought about some amazing ideas and impacts … including the playgroup ministry that has been so amazing. I am so excited to see what the collective ideas of all of you might bring to the table this time! So, mark it in your diaries … term 2, these church wide conversations will happen. And then in August/September we are planning the second of our “Resourcing our Mission” programs – “The Gifts of God” … a follow up to the successful imagining hope program we ran in 2019 … where we consider how we can play our part in bringing this newly refined and renewed Vision to life.
Continue focus on growing Young.
If you go back to when this church was two churches – we have also had as part of our Vision to help children, youth and young adults to know and love Jesus. It is part of our DNA. Last year the Church Council committed to spending 30-45 minutes each meeting working through a chapter of a book called Growing Young, which challenged us to cement a culture in this church which grows, empowers and supports young people and young adults. Our goal is to grow young as a church.
That means not only to lower the average age of the people in the church but connecting and involving more young people, but to change our thinking and our structures to better empower young people. We know that this is a journey but we are committed to see this through.
To help us move this goal forward in 2022 and to honour the Alan Williams Bequest, we plan to employ a part-time ministry agent this year to focus on youth and young adults. We are also undertaking as a church to run the Growing Young program here (which is based on the book that Church Council read last year).
And to start this process, we are also asking you to take the Growing Young questionnaire (it takes about 10 mins and you can do it at the same time as the NCLS survey). Then sometime after Easter we are going to run the Growing Young program here at the church – which is an exceptional program in helping us change our thinking and culture to better support young adults and young people and to begin to grow young. I am really excited about this goal.
Embrace being a lighthouse church and good neighbour.
We have had this sense of calling for a few years now but COVID has made it hard to get good momentum … so the goal this year is to bring this idea to life in a real and enriching way.
As I shared in the 2020 Church Vision, we are one of the largest Uniting Churches in our region and our state and we have felt this calling to embrace what it means to be a lighthouse church. Just as a lighthouse helps people that will never step foot inside the lighthouse itself, a lighthouse church reaches out beyond itself and helps people, communities and others churches. I believe that God has bought us Kevin to our church for just a time and goal as this and I am going to ask Kevin to share a little of what it means for us to reach out into our local community.
I hope you still have pondered my question of ‘why does the neighbourhood matter?’ We must understand that church exists in a local context to function as one part of the ecology of the neighbourhood. God’s Spirit moves in the Church, the Spirit also moves, creates and recreates outside the Church. To identify and discern what God has started in our streets and community, one of mission goals for this area is to establish ‘community asset mapping’ of Turramurra in order to know the needs of our community and how we can best contribute. By doing so, we can see how we can partner with key people and key places in our community. Again, this is not just ministry team or church council will do. We will invite different groups of church to participate and contribute in this process.
Thanks Kevin. I think the Carols initiative at the end of last year showed us just how power this ministry to the community can be and I am so excited to see where God leads us in this area. I will also add that a lighthouse church we are also called to connect with and support our sister churches in our area and will be endeavouring to do that more this year.
We have already shared for way too long, but you may have noticed that I have not yet mentioned our Bible reading from Romans 12. What you may not realise is that this was the same reading I used in Vision Sunday last year. I reused it because I wanted to make the same point to finish this Vision Sunday talk. Romans chapter 12 has two parts. Paul says in verse 1 to 8 that in the light of what Jesus did for us we need to consider how we personally respond in our own lives, faith and relationship with God; and then in verse 9 onwards, Paul challenges us to consider how we practically respond in the way we interact with those around us – our faith communities, local communities, our enemies and those in need.
Romans 12 is a perfect reminder the calling of God is both an individual and a communal calling. God’s vision for TUC is something that we all are called to own and to be a part of.
I included the Message version because I just love the way that Romans 12:1 is translated… What does it mean for us to own and be part of God’s Vision for our church and community?
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you [or what God is doing in the church and community] is the best thing you can do!
That’s our calling. To offer ourselves – our everyday, ordinary life – to God and embrace what God is doing, offer ourselves to be a part of bringing God’s vision to life. May this be our experience and commitment for 2022.