A group of young children are learning ballet. In the early stages, “recitals” are little more than a line of “dancers” standing in place tapping out the steps to the count of the music. They are inexperienced and awkward, fearful and unsteady. If they try to move too much, they could even fall off the stage and get hurt. So they stand in the center, restricted to a tiny area; they barely move and they barely dance. It’s touching when they are young – it makes parents tear up with pride and joy. Cameras whirr. But everyone understands that this is just a starting place. Some day these dancers will leap and move with grace and precision over the whole stage. They will add other dances to their repertoire. And then with maturity and the grace that comes with practice and discipline, they will move expressively and confidently, with safety, right to the edge of the stage and over the whole stage floor.
As “The Big Tent” is about to get underway, Commissioners from the Middle Governing Body Commission are gearing up to continue our work of listening and engaging the church in conversation about “(developing) models that reflect the roles of middle governing bodies in our polity and the changing context of our witness in the United States and their relationships with other governing bodies.” One of the metaphors that we have been using in the Commission is this one that came to us via Los Ranchos Presbytery’s Presbytery Pastor, Steve Yamaguchi. In his description of the work of the Odyssey Group that set out the new Vision for Mission Design of the Los Ranchos Presbyter, Steve described his goal of having the presbytery become more and more like a big dance stage with trained, disciplined dancers and clear, safe boundary markers so that “everyone can learn to dance the whole floor with joy and creativity, with imagination and expression.”
Envisioning Presbyteries as a “stage” for beautiful collaboration has captured our attention. To think of the relationships between churches and leaders within a presbytery as dance partners where they engage in ministry together with freedom, passion, abandon, risk and creativity without fear of falling off the stage has us thinking:
- How much space for freedom can we build into our system?
- What kind of boundaries are necessary?
- How big and flexible can we make the space?
- And especially, how much discernment can we entrust to the dancers (i.e. churches and their leaders) about the kinds of dances they want to perform and partners with whom they want to dance?
As our Commissioners head out to Big Tent, a big question that we want the church to help us think through:
What would it take for our Presbyteries to become large, free, open dance floors where ministry and mission were safe enough to be responsive to the Spirit in increasingly more creative ways?
And since part of our charge is to bring to the 220th General Assembly any recommended changes to the Book of Order, what would be ONE change to the “boundary lines” (i.e. the constitution) that would make it possible for more dancing and less staying in place?
Of course, the real answer isn’t in either floors or boundary markers but something else (Which I’ll write on next), but without floors and boundary markers, there would be no space to dance?
So, Big Tent what does a Big Dance Floor look like to you?
(We would really like to know.)