We're a "church without walls", which requires a bit of a paradigm shift. We have to move away from planning programs within a singular church building and focus more on the community and neighborhoods, on our relationships and partnerships with other people and organizations. By freeing us from the administration of a large building, we're able to be more creative, nimble and focused on following Jesus out onto the waves.
We are following Jesus as he enlarges the "circle of belonging", helping us to see our common humanity and shared divine image as the basis of any "missionary" effort. Jesus didn't give people God, he knew they were created in God's image (Gen 1:26-27). So instead, he forgave their failings and preached peace, in word and deed. And we are to do likewise. He helped people to see that their God-given shared humanity ought to bring them together under the banner of love.
In our discussion times, we've been exploring what it looks like to be disciples and church starters in Savannah. We've discussed a way of doing church that prioritizes listening, loving & serving, building community and exploring discipleship before and regardless of church taking shape in a new way among new people (see the graphic below). In other words, Epiphany is here to help people see that church doesn't have to look "churchy" or be within the four walls of a parish building for Jesus to be present. In the simple acts of humble listening to our neighbors, loving and serving, and working to build community, we can follow Jesus into the world and enlarge the circle of belonging, doing as he did. This is why we've prioritized community events among our collaborative neighbors like Sulfur Studios, Emergent Savannah, Citizens Advocacy and the like, all of whom are explicitly concerned with enlarging the circle of belonging and peace in Savannah.
This means that there's a more blurry line between "us/Christians" and "them/non-Christians", a blurry line between "church events" and "community events". We are hoping to build reciprocal relationships, collaboration and long-term mutual respect among our neighbors and neighborhoods, regardless of whether or not our neighbors become Christian. So, every time we invite someone to one of "our" gatherings, we must remind ourselves and our guests, there are no strings attached.
For example, we are planning to host a "Let's Play" event at Forsyth Park on Sept 9, a free game day for adults and kids (see below). Because Jesus warned against broadcasting our piety in public (Matt 6), we will not hand out flyers about Epiphany nor will we "advertise" our church brand, because we do not want to be boastful nor do we want anyone to think that Christian faith is required to play the game with us. Nor do we want to push away non-Christians from something that looks like a "churchy" event. So, we're keeping Epiphany's association with the game on the down low. If anyone asks who we are, we tell them about Epiphany. If not, then we ought not feel the need to advertise our Christian affiliation. That's because "building community" (hosting the game at Forsyth) is a good thing in and of itself. We don't need to "church-ify" it in order for it to be good and worthwhile.
As Epiphany grows, we're going to experiment with "loving and serving", "building community" and "exploring discipleship" into the fall and winter. As the church takes shape, we're hoping to continue to increase our worship team, pray together regularly, define our values, plan regular worship as a group, begin some kind of youth ministry and kid-friendly offerings. We are also expecting a visit from our overseer, Bishop Scott Benhase, on the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, 2018.
If you'd like to be involved in any way, please email me (or comment below) and come "explore discipleship" with us at one of the discussion groups taking place at Coffee.Deli and/or Foxy Loxy. There we discuss and plan many facets of our work and life together as a "church without walls". I (Kelly) am also happy to hear YOUR ideas and/or meet with individuals and families about what we're doing and planning. You are also welcome to just come to our events and enjoy yourself.
I hope that you will find a joyful way to add your voice and perspective to the mix!
Thank you for your support of this ministry.
lead organizer and pastor of Church of the Epiphany