Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Meredith Hoxie Schol - Route 122: "Leading Toward Transformation rather than Managing Collapse”

In addition to my appointment to the work of the Connectional Table, I am also deeply involved in the life of a small urban congregation on the northwest side of Chicago.  I love it dearly, and I’d like to think it is a church I would have found on my own, but, as luck (or itinerancy) would have it, my husband was appointed there in January 2012.  In our (almost) two years there, we have been a part of some really exciting work of the Holy Spirit, as this congregation on the brink of closure has more-than-doubled, largely because of new attendees and members under the age of 40.

I carry this story of this small church with me and tell it everywhere I can.  Not only am I proud of the work my husband has done, but I think it points to the reality that there are people (and I’m talking young people… those ever-so-elusive millennials everyone is blogging about these days) who are still looking for Christian community, and for the life transformation that comes along with finding a church home.

Last week, I had the chance to attend part of the Route 122 Network event in Indianapolis, put on by the General Board of Discipleship.  The theme of the event was, “Leading Toward Transformation rather than Managing Collapse.”  It brought together conference staff, district superintendents and other leaders focused on the renewal of existing congregations.  Sessions focused on a variety of ways to address change, including reports of best practices from local churches and annual conferences across the denomination.

In my life as a United Methodist, and particularly since coming to work at the Connectional Table, I sometimes hear lament over the disconnect between the local church and the broader denominational bodies.  While we continue to work on what it means to be a global, connectional church, I think events like the Route 122 Network are bright spots that show how our connectional nature truly allows us to accomplish more together than we could on our own.  Conference leaders sharing stories, sharing strategies, and agency leadership providing consultation and resources… it was an experience I found deeply enriching, both in terms of my work at the Connectional Table (primarily researching denominational collaboration) and in my identity as a participant in the life of a small, revitalizing church on the northwest side of Chicago.

For more information about Route 122 you can contact Betsey Heavner at bheavner@gbod.org.

Meredith Hoxie Schol is the Missional Collaboration Coordinator with the Connectional Table.