Church of the Advocate Visioning Report
May 11, 2008
In October 2007, the Vestry charged a visioning group to engage the People of the Advocate in a threefold process. Its charge was to clarify and claim our identity as a particular church community, to discern our collective call to ministry in Orange County, North Carolina, at the start of the 21st century and to respond to that call. Since Advent the People of the Advocate have been engaged in a visioning process facilitated by the visioning group to respond to the vestry’s charge.
In the first phase, the visioning group engaged the People of the Advocate in “creating a picture of who we are now, so that we can be intentional about whom we are called to be to be as we grow and change.”We hosted conversations around dinner tables at and before church to develop that picture.In the second phase, many of us met over dinner after church to name our dreams for our community ten years from now by imagining being the feature story of a national newspaper.
Through these processes we have expressed a desire to be mindful of our relationship with each other; with the community in which we live; and with the space, land and environment on which we envision a more permanent home.We recognize that change is inevitable; we embrace the challenge of change and we seek growth without losing sight of our essential and unique characteristics.
Our visioning process has culminated in the identification of four themes that are important to the People of the Advocate.Those themes are:the development of our distinctive culture; the use of space; the development of our spirituality and liturgy; andour desire for continued community engagement.
A Distinctive Culture
We see ourselves as representing a distinctive and innovative Christian culture that is orthodox, personally devoted, and socially active.Several teams mentioned a concern that we not lose our distinctiveness as we grow.Central to how we relate to one another is the model of a caring family.The People of the Advocate are loving and accepting in ways that seek to convey a radical hospitality.We are open to the diversity of our surrounding community, receiving others as they come in their diversity, whether racial, ethnic, economic, or sexual orientation.
We hope to embody increasingly the diversity of our community as a worshipping people.As we relate to one another in our own diversity, we personally experience the challenges of a call to hospitality and reconciliation.To the degree that we embody a culture of acceptance and forgiveness in the midst of diversity, we anticipate growing in our sensitivity to the needs of those who are marginalized.
We seek to provide space for authentic relationships.We hope that honest dialogue will characterize our relationships.Meals together, diverse cuisine, liturgy that reflects the influence of other religious communities, and lay involvement all reflect our dependency on one another and our respect for the input of many in our common journey. By creating a sanctuary that is both holy and safe, we will seek to provide a climate that can embrace and diffuse the tensions of diversity within an environment of love and safety.
Finally, by working to educate ourselves, our youth, and the public in matters of public policy and social discrimination, we desire to be proactive in addressing the challenge of diversity by carrying a mindset of hospitality and justice out into those communities where violence and fear rather than Christ’s care and acceptance characterize families and political groups.
We articulate God’s dream for us through our use of space to reflect the inseparable relationship between ourselves and the world in which we live, reflecting our intention to share God’s gifts to us with the community we are committed to serve.
Recognizing the possibilities that exist in our decision to purchase land, we seek the intentional use of space that reflects our desire to serve as stewards of the land.Through our conscious effort to balance need for home and space for worship with the delicate ecosystem, we envision a sanctuary.
Our sanctuary will be a place of refuge; a holy, consecrated place that is open, inviting and available not only to the People of the Advocate, but also to the community in which it is established. As God’s Spirit hovers throughout nature, we desire to construct a sanctuary that can exist as a part of nature through creative use of space that assures multiple uses of all parts of the building.
We envision a building that will be a sanctuary for quiet, contemplative retreat.It will be a holy place of worship; a structure that is open to the environment that gives us the sense that we are in relationship to God through all that we do, inside or out; that God can be experienced in every leaf, blade of grass, animal and person.A possible use of land in addition to the building of a sanctuary includes the development of a community garden.
It is our desire to express our understanding of God’s dream for us by using the land as a sanctuary for marginalized people, a protective space that allows for the expression of God’s love, grace and desire for relationship.It is our intention to be used by God to create a space, to build a sanctuary that honors the environment and seeks to maintain the delicate balance between the environment and the vision of the People of the Advocate.
Spirituality & Liturgy
As the People of the Advocate our vision for spirituality and liturgy expresses our yearning for worship that is transformative for all.It is our hope that through our intentional development and personal involvement in the liturgy we will transform our conscious involvement in the world.The idea of “new monasticism” resonated with one team, who expressed “that as People of God we are called to be distinctive in our practices of generosity, hospitality, and care for the ‘least among us.’”We believe we are co-creators with God when we use art and music throughout the liturgy.
We have a strong desire to continue to create and participate in liturgies that interweave the deep joys and concerns we have today with those expressed through the tradition of the church for two millennia.We envision maintaining our commitment to inclusive language and being open to the freshness of the Spirit as it moves among people of other religious traditions throughout the world.
Possible sources of liturgy and prayer were envisioned by two of our teams who suggested titles: The Book of Uncommon Prayer, and Liturgy – Of, For and By The People.
We will be a prayerful congregation, offering times for contemplative prayer and an evening prayer service.Opportunities for contemplation will combine the physical with the spiritual by having a labyrinth on our grounds.We continue to celebrate fervently the sacraments including full-immersion baptism and extending the Eucharistic table after the service for a meal.
Finally, our roots in the Episcopal and Christian tradition open us to inter-faith dialogue.We hope to find common ground with people from other faith traditions through our contemplative practices, in addition to working together to better our communities.
Our founding values are integral to our vision of our community as we grow into God’s dream for us.The teams confirmed our commitment to “engage with those in need in our local community” and to “work for justice and peace in the community and the world.”
Each team articulated ambitious goals, encompassing an incredible range of programs and services for our future outreach ministry.In our local community, our dream is to take the lead in advocacy, working with other faith-based groups and community organizations to pursue peace and justice, to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Beyond how we dream to open our physical space for community events, classes and sanctuary, we see our presence in the local community as an opportunity to work in partnership with UNC, IFC, the schools, Club Nova and others to create innovative, sustainable programs that serve the most vulnerable in our midst.
Our dreams do not stop at the county line.We see our state, our nation and the world as significant components of our “outreach to our neighbors in love” and we indicated that we are eager to step forward as “modern pilgrims” to build or re-build fragile infrastructures in such as places as Haiti, the Gulf Coast, and the Middle East.Through support of the establishment of schools, mission churches, refugee camps and sanctuaries for victims of war, violence and poverty, we desire to demonstrate through our actions, God’s love and desire for reconciliation.
As with all of the themes identified in this visioning process, intentionality was implicit in our expressions of hope for community engagement, captured in these two “headlines”:The Walls of the Church are Truly Porous andLiving The Word: To love and serve the Lord.
Respectfully submitted by,
The Visioning Group