The last few months have been some of the most interesting and exciting that I have experienced as rector. It is very clear to me that God is moving among us: raising up new leaders, inspiring new ideas, motivating us to try new things. Every week, I talk with outstanding volunteers and staff who are ‘trying stuff’ in an effort to shrink the distance that people have to travel to hear the Gospel. It is a season of immense creativity.
THANK YOU for your feedback and responses about our proposed church planting strategy. You wrote helpful things in our survey, you shared helpful emotions and insights in your small groups, and you prayed for help— for wisdom and discernment. Each day it becomes more and more clear to me that God is leading us and our church is willing to follow.
Three weeks ago, our vestry gathered for a 24 hour prayer and planning retreat. We had illuminating discussions about Mark 6, we spent 2 hours alone in listening prayer, we read and gave thanks for every response to our survey, and we discerned the immediate next steps to which God is calling Restoration. I have attached a brief summary of our discussion. Overall, the vestry is really excited that Restoration is excited about church planting. As a vestry we are unified in our conviction that God is calling us to prioritize church planting in this next season of our life together.
As we left the vestry retreat, we were united around 3 priorities that will guide our next steps:
- Our highest and most immediate priority is to hire a church plant resident who will join our staff team in Summer 2017 and aim to plant a church in Montgomery County in 2019. There is a hiring team already in place that is working on recruiting candidates. You can find the position description here. Feel free share with your networks. We are casting a wide net.
- Our second priority is to bolster our staff capacity for the work God is doing on Quincy street, specifically among kids and in our operations. We are working on the creation of job descriptions and creating budget space to consider hiring in the next 6-8 months.
- Thirdly, we discerned from your feedback and our listening prayer that it would be wise to lengthen the launch window on the idea of of whether or how the parish community model of church planting would work. We were encouraged that there is motivation to look at areas inside the beltway for new, neighborhood churches. We agreed together that instead of trying to launch a second parish site in September of 2017, we would keep talking and praying and planning for a potential launch in 2018.
The vestry left our retreat feeling unified and encouraged. God clearly met us and directed our conversations.
Over the last three weeks, God has continued to lead and direct. More clarity has emerged and I have an exciting announcement to make! Liz Gray is saying yes to a call from God to lead a new congregation in South Arlington. She and Simon have been in prayer and talking with wise counsel and this is an opportunity that brings them great hope and excitement. The process for this church plant will be a little different from the recent ‘parish model’ that we suggested in the Church Plant Strategy Document and the expectation is that this community will have a distinct vision of its own. We are excited to see how God will raise up a group of people who feel called to leave Restoration for the purpose of worshiping in South Arlington under Liz’s leadership.
I am so proud of Liz. It has been one of my life’s great joys to watch her answer a call to ordination, to complete seminary, and to become a priest. I love the way she has shaped Restoration and that so many people come to our church— ‘because Liz is a priest here.’ Consequently, it feels so good and right and Kingdom-minded and Gospel-oriented and trusting of God’s leadership to send her and a team of people to South Arlington. It is right because by sending Liz, it means we are sending our very best. We are sending part of our heart. I realize this leave-taking brings both joy and grief. We feel it too. I believe that God will use Liz and her team in a mighty way to ‘lower the distance people have to travel to hear the Gospel’ and to create a new church community.
I know you have lots of questions about how this will happen. All of us do. Here are some things I can tell you now:
- We have a parish meeting on February 28. Pancakes will be served at 6pm and then our meeting will begin at 6:45. Childcare is available for the meeting portion. You will have a chance to hear about the work of our Church Plant Steering Team and you will get to hear from Liz about her hopes for this new idea. We would love for everyone to come. Please let Louise know if you will be bringing kids to childcare.
- On March 16 at 7:30pm, Liz will host a conversation for anyone who would like more information about plans for South Arlington. Please come if you are at all curious about this opportunity. After Easter, in the spring trimester of small groups, Liz will host a small group of people who want to pray and begin to plan for this new adventure in South Arlington.
- We are anticipating that a South Arlington group will launch sometime in 2018. That is at least 10 months from now. One of the exciting things about the last few months is that our plans are still in flux, developing as new information or ideas come to light. So stay tuned over the next 10 months. There will be many more exciting updates to come!
- Liz leads and serves in tremendous ways at Restoration. We are grateful for strong volunteer leaders who already work with Women Unscripted, our outreach partners, and our prayer ministry. Over the coming year, we will transition the leadership of these vital programs. In addition, we will discuss the staff and clergy needs of Restoration as we send out one of our beloved priests.
I know that we have many questions. I firmly believe that God’s answers will be available to us when God needs us to know. He has so clearly led us in every season and decision of our church.
For now, let us rejoice because of God’s provision of a gifted leader, because of Liz’s courage to say yes, and because of our opportunity to be generous. Healthy things grow. Healthy churches grow. There is robust abundance all around us and for that we praise God.
With Joy and Faith and Hope,