The Power of Asking Why

The Power of Asking Why

After a few weeks of sheltering in place, I called each of our developers. One story that was shared with excitement was from Fuente de Gracia (Fountain of Grace) in Sanger. They are the newest new start/Synodically Authorized Worshipping Community (SAWC), beginning on February 1, 2020 in partnership with the Presbytery of San Joaquin. Pastor Alex Gonzalez shared with me how this still-small group of worshippers has been receiving  “guests” during their online service. I am sure that some of our congregations are also experiencing the same, from what I have heard recently. There are people who may not be comfortable physically visiting worship in the sanctuary who are finding their way to these online services, or some of us have become more comfortable inviting our friends and neighbors to our online service. For either group, they experienced an invitation and felt compelled to act. Evangelism as an invitation to experience God and hear God’s story is flourishing.

In line with this, four of our mission developers have been attending a “Developers Bootcamp” these past two weeks (90 minutes online, once a week, three sessions).  Some may have expected that “how to do evangelism – step by step” would be the topic in “bootcamp.” However, for the past two sessions our conversations centered on the question of “Why.” “Why are we here?” pertaining to their vocation as developers. In challenging times, it is powerful to remember or reflect upon one’s calling. Each developer shared their own call story and why they are called to a very challenging ministry – starting a new faith community. The second session focused on the new way of being a community through online worship and communication. One presenter who is a developer working with the Latinx community in one of the most hard-hit areas of the pandemic saw her community grow ministry of service and justice in helping the most vulnerable. They added more online “praying meetings” and organized social/justice ministries even in the limitations of physical gathering. Another presenter, working with the unchurched and young families in an area where there are not many Lutheran Christians; experienced a surge in attendance or new visitors. Both of them shared that they both start with the question of why, bringing them back to the vision and mission of the community from its beginning, now expressed differently using communication tools more creatively. Their vision of why grounded their what (new priorities) and how (new ways to see and use technology) questions. Their stories, even though quite different from each other, demonstrated how true they are to themselves. Their stories connected calling and creating. God’s why is in God’s grace, love and mercy.

Rowan Williams wrote in his one of his sermons, “In the Old Testament, calling and creating are closely associated. In the most basic sense of all, God’s call is the call to be: the vocation of creatures is to exist. And, second, the vocation of creatures is to exist as themselves, to be bearers of their names, answering to the Word that gives each its distinctive identity. The act of creation can be seen as quite simply this — the vocation of things to be themselves, distinctive, spare, and strange. God does not first create and then differentiate a great multitude of roles within creation: in one act he creates a multiple, noisy, jostling, and diverse reality.”

The church is challenged today. And at the same time the church is flourishing, in remembering our calling and creating new ways to be the church even in the midst of pandemic. We hope that you can send to us your stories of why– calling and creating – so that they can shared around our synod though our Church Together stories.

Pr. Tita Valeriano