(First sent to subscribers of my newsletter on March 20, 2017)
First, thank you for your incredible support as I jump into a new project. There is always a chance that in doing something this new, that the critics will outnumber the cheerleaders. So far that has not been the case. While the task I look ahead at is ridiculous in size, I am grateful that a such a broad and genuine group of supporters like you are on this journey with me.
Now, onto the meaty goodness.
I feel like this first update should cover the basics, in case you are still excited about what I am doing, but you have no idea what it is I am actually doing. For you, here is the story so far
About a year ago, we (some colleagues and friends) began talking about a large and growing population of adults in the U.S. who had disconnected from all religious communities. By all accounts, they would not be coming back, unlike previous generations had tended to do (albeit in fewer and fewer numbers themselves). The war to “win them back” had been lost according to a September 2016 PRRI study. This newest generation of adults, culturally tagged as “Millennials”, are living a different life, telling different stories, and valuing universal good in seismically different ways.
That left us with a question; do we maintain the course, and let the mortality of the current iteration of the church face its own destiny, or do we build something new, to meet the new needs of a new generation of adults?
We chose the latter.
And so, with the support of The Bishop and cabinet of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church (for my non-religious friends, read: the big uppty-ups), and the church I’ve worked with the past four years, we are launching something new.
As of today, its name is The Orontes Project (we anticipate it changing in the future). I am working with my friend and world famous fellow, Rob Rynders, to launch a pilot program that redefines what spiritual community is in twenty-first century America.
So, what’s the game plan, you ask? Great, tremendous question. People are saying it’s the best question.
At its core, we believe this new model of building community will invite anyone who wants to make their lives better and the world a better place. All are welcome. Having different beliefs is not a barrier to entry. Every person will be welcome to fully participate in any of the groups we launch. Our expectation of each other is that we do no harm to one another, or to those in the communities that we live. Other than that, there will be no expectation of what a person comes to believe, because at the heart of this grand experiment is the belief that we all want to be better and make the world better for each other. We think we can make that happen together.
To take it a step deeper into nuts and bolts, It will be based on networks of collectives, built around interests, causes, and growth. It will never offer a large Sunday morning gathering experience or meet in its own building. We think this is for the best for these groups. We’ll do this through creating an improved way of gathering and fellowship, a way of gathering that is relevant to, and transformative for, the current generation. For this to work, we must address the contextual needs of the folks we hope to work alongside. To do this, we have to be willing to walk away from some frameworks and philosophies that have worked in previous generations but have proven increasingly less effective in recent decades.
I’ve spent the past few weeks getting together with all kinds of people, asking them questions and learning about what they are passionate about. More than anything else, in these opening movements of this project must be grounded in the passions and hopes of the people that we hope will join us in the future. You’ll start to see posts and invites to join me for some initial gatherings, and I hope you feel welcome to come to any of them. Everyone is welcome to come along and join us.*
That’s a lot of words for a first update. Thanks for reading skimming them!
*And I do mean anyone. While we purposefully use “millennial” as a demographic we want to work with, we know there are good folks from all generations who are spiritual but not religious. Anyone who wants to go one this ride with us is absolutely welcome!
Finally, I’ll try to add a few links of interesting things I am reading or watching on the internet.
Stuff on my radar