By the Rev. Rachel Thomas, SE & SC Region Missionary
Originally shared in the SE Region Monthly Newsletter
About 40 of us from ECCT, including several from the Southeast Region, participated online in the FORMA 2022 Conference last week. In case you don’t know about FORMA – look it up! For 30 years or so they have been gathering people involved in Christian Formation at all age levels. Their Facebook group is one of my go-to places for learning what’s being offered in other places.
Of all the large group and small group offerings I heard, the one I want to highlight was by The Rev. Katie Nakamura Rengers. She talked about Hybridization. That’s been a very popular word for us the last couple of years: being able to offer worship and other small groups in a “Hybrid” format – both on site and online. It has been seen as a great way to allow everyone to participate in whatever format they are most comfortable.
The hitch is, that it has also come to mean “MORE WORK.” Don’t we feel that?!.
Instead, the Rev. Ms. Rengers took it back to the science of hybridization, and its foundation in evolution. Hybridization is a matter of choosing which genes to carry forward into the future; in Christian terms, it’s a matter of reflecting on which “genes” (traits or marks) of being a faithful Christian do we want to carry forward to future generations? In the midst of these choices, she proclaimed, loudly and clearly, the gift of biodiversity. In fact, as she pointed out, if we do not diversify as church, our inbreeding will inevitably mean that we will continue our weakness.
She pointed to Pentecost, and the diversity of languages as a reminder that diversity is a mark of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Each parish will have a different context for ministry; and the Holy Spirit will provide each parish with different gifts for ministry.
- What unique language has God’s Spirit given your parish to proclaim by word and deed the good news of God in Christ?
- What traits from Jesus’ way of love do you want to carry forward into the next generation of faithful Episcopalians?
- What gifts has God given you in your setting to address the needs in the lives of those around you?
One of the desires that our SE Region Leadership Team has named is that we move from competition to collaboration in our life together. In my experience, both as a parish priest and as a Region Missionary, the spirit of competition often stems from a sense of scarcity. We stay in our silos trying to hold onto what we have; we don’t want to admit our need.
In contrast, collaboration invites us to embrace the promise of God’s abundant life and claim the gift of biodiversity. We each have different gifts and are each beloved children of God. We each have a unique place as parishes in the larger body of Christ. AND, as Paul is reminding us these weeks in the epistle readings about the body of Christ:
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (I Corinthians 12:7).” The common good and the body of Christ are greater than our individual parishes.
As we go through Annual Meetings, new Vestries, and the continuation of a call to hybridization, I hope you’ll take with you a sense of your own unique belovedness before God, and your connection to a wider body of Christ, equally unique and beloved. And maybe, just maybe, the next time we find ourselves lacking, we will consider who else in the body might have the gift we need.
Blessings in this crazy world; may we choose to pass on to others God’s traits of love made flesh in Jesus.