People constantly remark, “So what is happening in Lancaster? How is your project coming? It is so good what you are doing for others!”
It is exciting to be used by God as part of a divine plan to enrich the lives of 56 seniors and their families with day care. Yet as we walk the walk of this process, we are learning something far more surprising—what we are doing is life-changing for us, too.
An earlier article about Lancaster Moravian in the Moravian Magazine shared with you some of our long process in determining our mission, and also the mix of joy and pain regarding our exodus. In a future article, we hope to share with you how our ministry is doing in the ‘Promised Land.’ However, right now I want to share with you how the Wilderness Experience is transforming our people from within.
Anticipation combined with Uncertainty invites Transformation
We are so excited and full of hope! Our building is almost done! It has turned out even better than we imagined! (The Lancaster congregation has transformed 8,259 sq. feet of an office building into a combination Adult Day Services facility and worship/fellowship space. The open, bright, modern space in downtown Lancaster, Pa., is multi-functional, with more than 6,000 sq. feet of the facility shared between the congregation and ADS operation.)
Our primary staff is already in place, including Zoe Bracci, executive director, Lynn Lueders, program director and Ivan Huertas, Nurse. I serve as chaplain, while my wife Janis will handle accounting. We are diverse individuals forming ourselves around a common regard for seniors and love of this community.
The congregation is spiritually preparing itself to do new forms and styles of ministry in an exciting new place within a largely unknown community. (The congregation’s ministry focus has shifted to providing day care services for elderly adults in the Lancaster area). We, not they, will be the “strangers.”
But the key concept here is that while totally focusing ourselves upon our mission, we have opened ourselves to be changed from the inside out … “transformed” as Paul would say.
What Transformation Looks Like
Certainly our direction and purpose have changed. As members shared during a recent worship service, our whole perspective has changed. Our very culture, especially in our decision-making, is completely different from how we used to do it.
Fundamental was the decision to spiritually surrender our congregation’s property and future to the Spirit of God, and instead focus all that we have and are on serving those around us. However, this monumental change has also opened doors for many other life-giving changes.
We now make decisions together—often in unanimity, but always by consensus. We now accomplish more in a 20-minute Joint Board meeting after worship than in a year of three-hour Joint Board meetings before! We can sing “Join We All with One Accord” as a congregation and mean it!
The 268-year-long history of Lancaster Moravian is filled with examples in which decisions were reached only after long and bitter political struggles in which an individual or small group felt threatened and, therefore, raised great contention. Unfortunately, the vast majority responded by backing down to avoid confrontation or split. Human concerns (or fears) won out over Spirit-led change. Over time, this process came to be understood and accepted as Lancaster’s form of “Moravian Unity.”
By our actions, we have redefined our process in a way that makes all things new! Votes of Church Council, Joint Board or any group are no longer seen as seeking personal preference or political expediency. When we discuss, as well as when we vote, we are seeking the voice of the Spirit speaking through our people.
Many perspectives are expressed—as many or more than ever before. Sometimes the emotional levels feel electrically charged, almost unbearable. But rather than drawing lines in the sand, we now explore the differences together, face-to-face. We speak our peace and, just as important, we listen to the peace of others. No decision is made until all voices have been heard and all possibilities explored. Although tension sometimes becomes palpable, withdrawing from the process is never discussed or threatened as this has become a safe place where everyone is valued.
An Openness to Change can offer New Life
This intellectually simple but relationally powerful culture change has offered us two life giving realities:
- We are free to try new things for God, and
- Church is fun again! Even joyous and exciting!
We still look the same. Our membership remains small and older, but just as the Lord used Gideon’s small force to defeat a mighty army, the Spirit is using our new understanding of unity in God to do great things through us anyway.
As we have witnessed time and again, with the direction and provision of God we are getting better and better at leaving our personal agendas at home. Our ability to flex and adapt to possibilities in each moment are off the chart. All we have to do is be willing to follow, ask for help when needed and wait with patience. We know that in some way we will be shown how to proceed.
Never Going Back
We are not the same people who left Eden Road a year ago. We are a people open to new ideas, able to respond to unexpected circumstances with hope, willing to take necessary risks for God and openly accepting and joyful regarding each other.
We do not have this Life in the Spirit totally figured out yet (maybe we never will) but you can see in the faces and hear in the voices of my people that this is a very special time for us. Yes, we will be helping others, but in the process of following the Lord we are being changed too!
The Rev. Dean Easton is pastor of Lancaster Moravian Congregation. The congregation opened The Moravian Center Adult Day Services in late July. For more information, visit www.lancastermoravian.org.