Our community had a meeting Sunday night. It was to group together and discern who we are and therefore what we are about. I want to share with you the report I wrote and sent out to our members. Maybe it'll give you some insight into our community: I'm sending this summary report of what happened Sunday night here at Rothesay Vineyard. There was an excellent turn out. I'm sorry you missed it if you weren't here. It was a wonderful night of singing, reflection, discernment and discussion. I read from Paul where he claims that by grace he is what he is, and that this grace was not in vain. In fact, this grace has motivated him to work harder, though it was not him, but the grace working within him. I suggested that we openly declare what grace has made us to be. Who are we? What do we mean when we say, "This is who I am"? Then, we could determine how we could work to manifest that in our personal and corporate lives. Also, I reminded us of when the people were on the edge of the land and heard the report. Not only was there the good report of milk and honey, but also the report of giants. What are our personal and corporate giants? So, first, by grace: Who are we? What are the benefits? What is the good report? Then, second: How do we work to live that out in the face of our challenges. This is what we, as a community, came up with: Who Are We? We value authenticity and encourage people to be free in whom they have been created to be. We have practiced longsuffering in the face of insurmountable odds. But more than just developing endurance, we have learned how to be faithful in the face of adversity. We are a shelter that provides comfort for others. We have learned, through our own experiences, how to be empathetic... how to be with others in their suffering. We want to become even more welcoming than we already are, and we invite and promote variety in our midst. We value gracious flexibility, not only in terms of how we think, believe and live, but also in how we function as a community. In spite of the diversity we welcome and experience in our community, we are also mindful of the unity that binds us together regardless of our differences. We hope the love we have for each other is tangible. We have also learned how important it is to be generous, confessing that, indeed, we have been shown immeasurable generosity. We believe that an incredible diversity of gifts has been sown into our community. Welcoming and encouraging authenticity and diversity is good soil for freedom of expression. Creativity in the arts, especially visual arts, writing and music, enriches our community life. Praise is one of our strongest expressions of faith that should be encouraged and nurtured. Also, our journey has taught us how to appreciate and honor children and their needs so that we can raise them without shame and with respect and dignity. As well, we remember that we have been blessed in the past with the gift of prophecy, that is, speaking the truth and speaking compassionately and candidly into people's lives with words of hope, courage and love. Assured that the call and the gifts are irrevocable, we ask that we again trust ourselves with this gift as we have been entrusted with it. We acknowledge that prophecy has been exercised in our midst as a sign of his presence, and we would like to have the courage to fan that into flames once again. Intercession has become more important and we value those committed to this task as we all are encouraged to seek his will for us. Also, I must take up my authority and assume my role as teacher because this is a valuable asset and resource, not only for our own growth but for the benefit of others. These are just some of the areas that we feel compelled to work hard with all the energy that is within us. OUR CHALLENGES
  1. Fear is the biggest giant facing our community... fear of proceeding with courage to take the land that has given into our hand and that is rightfully ours. We have been through a great deal and we often permit our wounds, weaknesses and weariness to debilitate us. Sometimes we allow fear to defy us, just like Goliath did. We must believe, and become who we are with boldness. All it took was one little stone. All it takes is faith the size of a mustard seed.
  2. Structure needs to be addressed. Perhaps being overly cautious about becoming or appearing legalistic or program-oriented, we may have tended to relax discipline and let order slide. We not only need some structure, like fences, to provide helpful guidelines and resources for our members, but also to provide safety against adversarial forces.
  3. If we are a community that values authenticity and diversity, then we need to constantly remind ourselves to not take offense when one of us falls. We are in danger of becoming judgmental if we forget how much we have been forgiven ourselves. We will, at one time or another, stumble. Compassionate people and healthy communities know how to rehabilitate others with grace, not only to the dignity of their own personal lives, but to the life of the community with safety and without shame.
  4. In making these proclamations of who we are by grace, we must be careful not to let pride slip in. We must remember that we are who we are only because of grace. We will not look down on one another. Nor will we consider ourselves any better or any worse than any other community. If we love diversity, then we also appreciate the many local expressions of the body throughout the world, including ours.
I thank everyone who made the effort to come out. Thanks to those who helped lead the meeting. Thanks to those who spoke out, even with some difficult words. Not just the usually more vocal folks shared, but a wide cross-section of people, giving me confidence that the variety of contributions was a fair representation of our community. I'm proud of all of you.

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