Last Friday night at the Friend's Meeting House in Northampton, our Launch Team hosted the first evening of Conversation: Discovering the Heart of imagine/northampton. The event was really the first true public meeting for the church. In a way, the mission was launched, even though we were not offering a worship service, prayer meeting or bible study. Nevertheless, there we were in front of a small gathering of curious folks -- 23 to be exact -- apparently open to finding out about us.
From our vantage point it was a pretty good first start: low key, but authentic, relaxed, but stimulating, honest, but trying to be sensitive in the best sense. We had met most of the folks, but not all of them. Some had heard from others about the event and came to see what might be happening. It felt we engaged many of them and they engaged us us.
Jim LaMontagne, our teaching catalyst, did a nice job of setting up the evening with thoughts on who we are and where we want to head through the Conversations. He set the stage well. I talked about our mission to help people engage God at a deep level of the heart, and then live in trusting surrender and in the freedom of loving what Jesus loves. I then led a conversation around what it means to have Jesus forming in their hearts. Tricia, our spiritual formation and creative arts catalyst, ably closed the evening with a reflection project. She brought in a whole bunch of items to spark contemplation around engaging what God wanted to say to the folks in their hearts after they returned home.
After the evening ended, I was struck by the sacred trust God places in people when he gives them the mission of launching a church. I looked into the faces of folks sitting in the room with us. Each person seemed to be desiring to experience God in a way that moves and frees them as they live the realities of their everyday. I saw a simple longing for connection even if they couldn't name the exact connecting point they desired. There was still hunger amidst real-life disappointment, tiredness, sadness, responsibility, and brokenness. Some that night wanted to hear something different or fresh, or they were curious about how we might move forward and what it would look like. Everyone was looking for something.
The evening has caused me to wonder how imagine will carry the responsibility God has given us with his people and his family in the days ahead? I wonder how we will enfold the folks who do not know him yet and see no reason to know him? I wonder if our words will outstrip ability to love and actually serve people?
And I wonder if I can do this at all sometimes. Maybe I am too selfish, too fearful and weak-kneed, maybe more enamored by the idea than the reality which will surely require depths of spirit and freedom I have not accessed.
I know for sure this responsibility will need Jesus to transform all of us where we are both piddling and assured. If he does not show up 24/7, our handling of what he has entrusted to us will be misguided fits and starts, rabbit-trails, and much ado about glittering trifles. Or as Gary Haugen refers to in a story from his book "Just Courage," maybe we will prefer to stay in the safe Visitors Center rather than make the demanding climb to the top of the mountain he invites us to. Don't know for sure yet. Hope not.
I really hope he teaches us bone-deep humility, true compassion, and tenacious Christ-hearted love...the kinds that turns a mission into a roaring fountain of life way beyond our best imaginings. He can. I suspect he wants to. I hope we all get to be a part of that in Northampton. I suspect he wants that for us also.
So, again, what a responsibility! Help me, Jesus!