We have completed our first Tending Our Soil congregational exercise! Thank you to everyone who participated and helped with the set-up and meals.  This first exercise was designed to help us articulate our core values, beliefs, and practices as a congregation.  Thriving congregations are generally able to clearly articulate their core identity and how it fits with God’s mission.  In a paraphrase of Frederick Buechner’s well-known definition of vocation, thriving congregations can generally tell you just where and how their deepest passion meets the world’s deepest needs.  

Below are the results of our first Tending Our Soil congregational exercise.  

First, some definitions:

  • Core “values" form the base, the most basic level.  They are the way we see the world, the assumptions that guide our thinking.
  • Core “values” give rise to core “beliefs”, convictions about what is true.
  • We express our core values and core beliefs in our core “practices,”  the things we actually do.


Practices
When we as a congregation were asked to identify our core practices, “Beauty” and “Hospitality” were the most-commonly noted choices, with “Worship” in third place. 

As defined on the "Practices" sheet that we had when we completed this exercise,
 BEAUTY meant "Touching the divine; encountering the Holy through visual arts, singing, instrumental music, poetry, dance, and architecture."
HOSPITALITY (10 times) meant "Creating spaces where strangers and wayfarers become friends and transformation can happen; extending welcome to the breadth of human life; lack of judgment."
WORSHIP (6 times) meant "Experiencing God; opening people to transcendent experience of God; practices of divine awe, mystery, and wonder."

None of the other practices listed was chosen more than three times. 


Values & Beliefs

When we were asked to identify the core values and beliefs that we express through our practices, the answers were a bit more spread out.  Among “Values,” that is, the lens through which we see the world, “Tradition” was the most-commonly noted choice, followed by “Honor,” “Adaptability,” and “Care.”  
TRADITION (7) “A long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting.”
HONOR (5) “Treating one another with respect; acting from a place of integrity and fairness.”
ADAPTABILITY (4) “The ability to adjust to different or changing circumstances.”
CARE (4) “To be concerned about others and show that concern.

When asked to identify our core beliefs, or assumptions about what is true, we chose “the dignity and worth of every person,” “user-friendly church experience,” and “value of community” (5 times each).  “The hard work necessary to make sure that all are welcomed” was chosen three times. 

Keep up with our Tending Our Soil projects and events here.  To learn more about the initiative in general, check it out on the diocesan website here.