Some years ago, when I attended a special CREDO for the Laity of Reorganizing Dioceses, I was introduced to the concept of a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal). As this General Convention has progressed, what first began as a small motif—popping up here and there—has seemed to me to become not simply a theme, but a fully-formed BHAG. The deputies appear ready for adventurous change, and while knowing that any change is usually a bit painful, we seem to have steeled ourselves and are prepared for a “fresh expression of our traditions” as we “follow Jesus into the neighborhood, travelling lightly.”
My legislative committee on congregational vitality has heard testimony from Church Center staff, accomplished mentors and many working in the trenches to bring the Episcopal Church to a new or revitalized audience. It was not a question of “if,” but rather just how audacious we should be as the congregational vitality committee pressed forward with legislation to further a new wave of missionary work by the Episcopal Church. Our committee co-chair, JoAnn Jones suggested that if our proposed resolutions fail, then let us “fail spectacularly.” But I don’t believe that they will fail, and spending bravely for evangelism and revitalization certainly seems to be the emerging “will of the House” at this General Convention.
The collection of resolutions necessary to pursue our BHAG has begun its journeys through both houses and are being enthusiastically received. The collection comprises: Creating a Capacity to Plant Churches (D005), Revitalization of Congregations (D009), Continued Funding of Mission Enterprise Zones (A012), Latino-Hispanic Congregational Development (A086) and the New Visions Initiative from the Black Ministries Office (D072).
Mission Enterprise Zones, which received funding at the last General Convention, are the sort of projects that give our church the opportunity to build relationships in communities where we don’t currently have a presence. These mission initiatives can reach those without a traditional church association. Vitality and success in these projects not only benefit the target populations, but also lead congregations to a unified sense of purpose and tie them to the people of their neighborhoods in new ways.
How can you not be excited to see the church you love thrive and be more relevant and effective in the months and years ahead? So the collective BHAG—Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal—that formed out of the 78th General Convention might best be summarized by the Franciscan Blessing: “… may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world.” And I do believe that we will.
Cindy J. Smith is a lay deputy from the Diocese of San Joaquin, and a member of the legislative committee on congregational vitality.