The Ezra Team
The Ezra Team is a group of church leaders meeting regularly throughout 2021 to help lay the foundation for our church's future. The group will offer various forums for conversation and feedback, culminating in a series of recommendations for how we move forward. Below, you'll find each public update that the team has shared along the way. For questions or comments, you can always email pastor Jeremy (email@example.com).
Ezra Team Update - 3-25-21
The Ezra team needs your feedback on another survey to help us figure out what it actually takes to make our community run. If you do any type of regular service for the church (from board chair to occasional usher to leading Sunday school to ANYthing else), please fill out this survey by Friday, April 9th! One of our goals is to offer recommendations that will better equip and position our church leaders for success. To do that well, we need to know what is actually being done right now. You can always call or email Jeremy (firstname.lastname@example.org) if that’s easier. Thanks!
Ezra Team Update - 3-3-21
A Request From the Ezra Team:
The Ezra team exists to discern and lay the foundation for the future of what God will do through Rosenberg FUMC. The team won’t be involved in day to day decision making or planning, but is focused on the clear sense that God is calling us to grow where we are planted by investing in the life of our surrounding neighborhoods. Doing so means being a church rooted in God’s mission to respond to the concrete needs and lift up the unseen gifts of our neighbors. Our history in this place as well as our legacy of food, family, and faith puts us in a strong position to make a lasting impact for generations to come. WE NEED YOUR HELP with 2 simple questions:
What organizations or programs in our area are doing the kind of work that excites you and/or that you are currently supporting through donations, volunteering, or otherwise?
What skills or gifts do you have that you’d be willing to use in service of others?
Please respond by clicking here - https://forms.gle/ivnvM4AxFvb5n4y4A - contacting the church office, or speaking with an Ezra Team member.
Ezra Team Update - 2-11-21
The Ezra team was first announced in the Fall of 2020 as a group that will help lay the foundations for all that God will do in our church’s future. This first update offers a few themes and ideas that the group has discussed in its first two meetings. A quick reminder - the work of this group is focused on discernment and offering recommendations. None of what we do represents a final or authoritative decision making body of the church. A fuller description of the team can be found at bit.ly/39ygye4
- Missional church - I shared in the Fall and we’ve continued to discern that our church’s future will center on the real, concrete impact we are invited to have on our neighborhood. We’ve explored a little more about the advantages and challenges of prioritizing that type of work. I shared the Food, Family, and Faith framework that captures a working summary of the conversations I’ve been able to have about the life of the church to this point. While not final by any means, it begins to offer a sense of how we might think of what we are doing and how - bit.ly/3tPnpr6
- Ready, Fire, Aim - This is a framework that I’ve shared before, which primarily emphasises our need to try out new things sooner than later and course correct along the way. We don’t have the time or ability to answer every question before we try something; part of our task will be to embrace the need to experiment, learn, and adjust. You can read more here - bit.ly/2LGlLXu
- What’s Next - Before our next meeting, the team is doing a little research on the organizations and needs that exist in our corner of the world. To better understand with whom we might be able to partner and to understand where our focus might be most effective, it helps to know what is already being done and by whom.
Defining the work of the Ezra team
Ezra tells the story of God’s people as they returned from exile. The exile was a period in which the people were scattered throughout the Babylonian empire and unable to gather and worship God in the temple. That temple had been central to their worship and self understanding, but had been destroyed when the people were scattered. Returning back to Jerusalem after the exile made it possible to begin reimagining the role and purpose of a new temple. The significance of this return and its effect on the future and direction of God’s people is hard to overstate.
Perhaps the most noteworthy theme of the story told in Ezra and continued in Nehemiah is what happens throughout construction of the new temple. In the process of rebuilding, we are confronted by a reality that is as unsettling as it is hopeful. In Ezra 3, that reality come to life:
"And all the people responded with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted so loudly that the sound was heard far away.”
Rebuilding what we have lost is a statement of God’s enduring faithfulness and steadfast presence. At the same time, the past will always remain in the past. The newness of what God is doing, no matter how great and beautiful and powerful, will never be the same as our memories of the past. Rebuilding is a process - not of going back but of building on the foundation of the past as we find new ways to encounter the presence of God.
The tension between appreciating the gifts of our past and accepting the new thing God will do upon that foundation is one of the most frustrating and life giving processes throughout scripture. That tension arises again when the temple is destroyed once and for all and God’s people have to find new habits and rituals of worship. The tension arises in the teaching of Jesus as he tells people over and over “You have heard it said, but I say unto you…” The tension arises in the early church through fights over the necessity of dietary laws (Acts 10) or circumcision (Galatians), and the meaning of baptism (Acts 8). In every case, the work of God would make no sense without the gifts of the past AND the exact thing that happened in the past is not sufficient to capture the new thing that God is doing now.
We find ourselves at a similar junction as a church. We are incredibly blessed by the gifts and the impact of our ancestors in the faith. Their contributions have made us what and who we are. They have been a light that has kept this church going and made an impact here in Rosenberg and beyond. AND it is no secret that the trends we’ve seen in membership, financial support, and participation require us to consider what new thing God desires to do in and through us now.
It is time for us to form our own Ezra team that will facilitate the work of discernment in order to build on the foundation of our past in a way that will be sustainable and impactful for generations to come. The team will be formed in order to ask key questions about our future priorities and commitments over the course of the next year or so. Much like the story of Ezra, the new thing that will come from our conversation and decisions will both facilitate the work that God continues to do through our community AND it will not be exactly like it was before.
Throughout 2021, the Ezra team will explore one question that is as simple as it is vital - why do we exist? Or to put that in other terms, what is God working to accomplish through the life of our church community? How can we most faithfully follow wherever that path leads? To explore our why, we will examine 4 aspects of church life:
Leadership: What kind of leaders and expectations thereof will help us go where we want to go?
Membership: What do we expect of all our members?
Stewardship: What principles, processes, and/or priorities are needed for us to be good stewards of our facilities, donations, and talents?
Partnership: How do we relate to and where do we prioritize the work of other organizations?
Our Ezra team will help the congregation reflect on these questions and develop practical and concrete decisions, policies, and strategies that the church will have the opportunity to adopt at some point in the process. The goal of this work is not to solve every problem or to make decisions about what can and can’t be done. The goal is to catch a vision for where God is guiding us in this season so that we can begin to chart out the next right steps toward the future that God has in store.
Because of the nature and scope of this work, the Ezra team will host a variety of listening sessions and/or town hall type meetings. As has been the theme for most of 2020, we don’t know what public health or technology will allow, but we will be as flexible and transparent as possible throughout. Depending on the speed and discretion of the team, there may be action items brought before the whole church along the way or the work might result in a variety of recommendations to be considered at the end. Again, this group is not looking to make decisions on behalf of the church - the goal is to facilitate the conversations and decision making that will be necessary for us to most faithfully and effectively follow where God is leading next.
For some, this time of discernment will be fruitful and energizing. For others, it will offer painful reminders of a former glory that will never look and feel quite the same. For all of us, this is an opportunity to imagine and dream about what we hope to see God accomplish through us and through our church community. Change is never easy. Loss inevitably comes with change, no matter how beneficial or necessary that change is. This process is an invitation to let go of our fear about what might happen; and learn to stand on the sure foundation of God’s love and acceptance that will be underneath our feet no matter what lies ahead.