By Lindsey Ramsey, St. Michael & All Angels, Portland
Between February 2017 and May 2018, a group of nine members of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church conspired to weave together God’s dream for our community. The Dream Weavers planning process was informed by the classic church strategic planning guide, Holy Conversations: Strategic Planning as a Spiritual Practice for Congregations. Guided by this resource, the strategic planning process that evolved incorporated a involved a series of activities designed to engage members of both our English and Spanish speaking communities.
In discerning God’s dream, our desire was to seek diverse information and input on what and who makes St. Michael’s what it is. Through writing, art, conversation and other activities, we asked questions like: What are the qualities of Episcopalians? What are the church’s greatest strengths and opportunities? How far away from do the church do our congregants live? How do we interact with spiritual transformation?
Our first activity encouraged St. Michael’s members to express their vision of God’s wildest dream for our faith community through writing and art. Over 100 parishioners utilized flame shaped cutouts to express their dreams, which were displayed in our sanctuary for Pentecost in 2017. Other activities included a parish-wide SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results) analysis, an exploration of Anglican identity and temperament as experienced at St. Michael’s, and fall discussion groups that explored sources of transformation (study and learning, prayer and worship, life in community and action). Having a feedback loop allowed the Dream Weavers to analyze the information from the community, and then send that analyzed data back out for additional church input and discernment. Overall, our community members provided input or participated over 650 times.
The result was our brand-new Vision Statement, which we have illustrated through the imagery and qualities of a tree and its branches. Our Episcopal “roots” support the four ways our community seeks to follow the way of Jesus: by manifesting joy, embracing resilience, seeking justice and living in love.
The visioning process allowed St. Michael’s to take intentional time to assess itself with openness to new possibilities. It served to create connections between members and ministries, and to ignite new and meaningful conversation. The resulting Vision Statement is just the beginning. With it, the church can navigate a deeper engagement with its values and priorities, as we continually seek to live into God’s wildest dream for us.