The manner in which we begin our days, in many ways, determines how the day will go. If we are able to begin with a time of reflection, taking stock of what went on yesterday and what is going on inside ourselves, and also envision possibilities in the various opportunities of the day ahead, then we are more assured that we are giving the day our best effort. If we simply bound out of bed and into the day’s activities with no such time of reflection, we may never really have a sense of being grounded and may simply react to what is thrown at us. Certainly every day will contain surprises and things we cannot imagine, but the better we have processed our circumstances and ourselves, the better prepared we are to meet the day. Daily reflection, and daily envisioning, help tremendously. Periodic retreats where we pause for a longer period of time and reflect even more deeply about where we are and where we hope to go in the future are extremely helpful too.
Systems, and maybe old downtown churches especially, need such times of reflection and envisioning. At least annually it is good for churches to reflect on programs and developments and then imagine what could be done in the year ahead. Without such reflection on the past year, we might not learn from our mistakes or claim successes. Without envisioning where we would like to be in the next year, we simply would never be able to grow in our offerings. Systems need intentional times of taking stock and imagining what could come next.
July is such a time for St. John’s. We have just completed our September-May programs and can evaluate how things went. Staff members and leaders can sit with each other and name the things that went well and not so well. Experience, by itself, isn’t the best teacher. Reflection on experience is where we gain wisdom.
July is also the time of the year when we ask all our staff members and leaders of programs to dream about what we would like to do in the next calendar year. A vision for the parish must always be recast and we must always be looking ahead. What else could we do to build on what we are doing this year? What brand new initiatives might we begin? What is the next step in our parish growth? This is the month when we think about those things for next year.
Financially we also begin in July to prepare for next year. We take our dreams and goals and estimate their cost. Without savvy planning, very little happens in church systems. Maintaining financial responsibility helps build trust which, in turn, builds enthusiasm and more vision. Mid-year we start thinking about next year. What is our vision? How much money will it take to move into that vision? That’s our big question in July.
In September the Vestry will bring to you our proposals for ministry and mission for 2010. We will let you know how much we estimate it will cost for the parish to operate in 2010. All the work for that begins right now. Our areas of ministry do the work of dreaming, then we do the work of estimating cost and setting specific goals.
July may be the most exciting time of the year for me, this time of reflection and envisioning. It’s very much like what happens in daily time of prayer and it generates tremendous energy. Are there things you would like to include in this reflection and dreaming process? Are there things you would like to share about what was offered this past year and what might be offered next year? Always your Vestry and Staff should be listening but this month it is especially valuable for us to hear from you. Dream with us about what our parish could become. Name that dream with us. Pray for our future. God has much in store for us and this is one way that we participate in the blessings from God’s hands.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.