From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures
Recently about 50 people of Wesley Forrest Congregation gathered for Day 1 of mission planning with Rev Dr Cameron Eccleston of Uniting Mission and Education (UME) of our Synod. Cameron is part of the Mission Enablement Team of UME.
A cross section of the congregation met from 9-12:30 on a Saturday morning. The group ranged in age from a few months old (see his pram in the photo) through to early 90’s, and included a handful of youth and young adults. The room filled with the buzz of conversation in the first exercise of getting into pairs to tell each other a time when you saw God at work in Wesley Forrest. We were encouraged in this remembering and retelling of God’s works by the important place such practices have for people of faith in the Scriptures. Think of the institution of the Passover Festival when Moses said to the people: “Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, because the LORD brought you out from there by strength of hand” (Exodus 13:3). Think as well of the institution of the Lord’s Supper when Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to the disciples saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).
There was lots of remembering and retelling as the pairs spilled over into groups of four, and each person retold the stories of the person they had initially paired with. Feedback to the whole group showed that there were some common stories of times when people had seen God at work in Wesley Forrest.
With these occasions fresh in our minds, we were in a good space to look forward to what God is calling Wesley Forrest to join in for the future. The exercise to get us thinking and acting and praying for this future was: “If Jesus came to you today and said, ‘I will answer any 3 prayers you have for this church’, what would you pray?” People were given time to write down their prayers, and then were invited back into their groups of four to pray together for these things. Again, the room was filled with voices. This time, those voices were praying.
After a break for morning tea, we got started on the final exercise. This time we were asked to respond to the question, “What does Wesley Forrest look like at its best in 5 years?” People formed into groups around tables covered with plastic tablecloths. We used whiteboard markers to write and draw what we discussed in our table groups.
All the written stories, prayers and tablecloths were gathered up at the end of the morning by Cameron. He has an important and huge task in drawing together all this data to identify significant leads for the Congregation’s mission plans that will emerge in the next stages of the process.
A big thank you to Cameron, UME and Synod for their support of mission planning in our Presbytery. And well done to Wesley Forrest for such a strong turn out on the day for the mission planning. Looking forward to the next stage.