One of the things I am exploring as I study new models is what is already happening—especially in the United Methodist connection. This has meant I talk to lots of people in other parts of the country….but this past weekend, I had a more personal encounter with the new thing the Holy Spirit is doing among us.
I went to Oklahoma for a 3-day retreat with the Academy for Missional Wisdom. This retreat was the start of a two-year program where participants will learn missional spirituality, theology and the practices of missional micro-communities.
I will confess that I am fairly jaded when it comes to conferences and retreats. Why? Mostly all the posing and weirdness that happens when you get clergy together (who can be surprisingly competitive) really gets me down. So I will admit this led to very low expectations for the retreat. But as I prepared for the weekend I had a sense I needed to be more open and relaxed and sure enough, by the time I step into the Osage Forrest of Peace, I felt open and curious.
Led by a variety of people, Elaine Heath and Larry Duggins were the weekend’s main speakers. They made a great team—Dr. Elaine Heath is the McCreless Associate Professor of Evangelism at SMU Perkins. She is known to bring two divergent pathways together: mysticism and evangelism (Check out her book, “The Mystic Way of Evangelism”). She is thoughtful, deeply spiritual and (wait for it, wait for it….) able to get things done. I mention that because I am frankly fed up with all the talking and very little doing.
Larry Duggins was completely new to me and his story drew me in. His first career was in investment management where he was founder of a Dallas company which was recognized in 2005 as one of the best places to work. Currently, he is finishing up his MDiv. studies at Perkins and is a licensed Local Pastor at White’s Chapel where he serves as the Associate Pastor for Emerging Ministries (don’t you love how that sounds?). He brought some helpful and pertinent grounding to help us get the importance of insurance, administration and accountability in fresh expressions of ministry. He was insightful, fresh in his approach and helpful in the way that only someone with wisdom can be.
The Missional Wisdom Foundation is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to build a generation of Methodist leaders who practice missional Christianity by living in community. The Missional Wisdom Foundation has communities were people live and do mission (The Epworth Project which has 26 people/5 projects), worshiping communities (New Day micro churches of which there are 5) and learning academies (The Academy for Missional Wisdom).
Here is a bit more on each…
The Epworth Project focuses on seminary students and young leaders to help them develop community skills, depth in their prayer lives, an attitude of service, a sense of balance and a theology of enough.
New Day micro churches are house churches guided by lead teams who plan worship and together follow a rule of life. These house churches are anchored in a UMC local church (for the sacraments & to follow a rule life with the pastor but not as a feeder for the UMC church or for $$$$). I like their three-word description: Missional, Monastic, Methodist.
The Academy for Missional Wisdom is just starting (with the group I am in and one that is meeting in Alaska) and has as part of this curriculum six distance learnings (on-line classes), three retreats and two practicums. Together these provide a theological foundation and the practical skills needed to start and lead micro-communites of prayer and action.
I will share a bit more this week….
Let me share a bit about their Rule of Life.