Several weeks ago, at the 2013 Assembly of the Metro Chicago Synod of the ELCA, representatives of approximately 190 Chicago-area congregations heard Bishop Wayne Miller put forth a vision for evangelism that goes beyond traditional ideas of Church growth: “Our response to the challenges of our time is going to require the proliferation of a significant number of new faith communities that are growth and outreach driven – built with an affordable and adaptable organizational structure.”
Bishop Miller reminded us that the basis of our faith communities is not a piece of real estate or even particular leaders, but rootedness in proclamation, service, and justice. “Faith communities built on this essential model can be of virtually any size, living in any culture, in any socioeconomic position. They do not require a discreet building or even a professional staff,” he said. However, he added, “like all communities, they need some sort of leadership and they need some sort of support and accountability structure to stay healthy and growing.”
And with that he proclaimed a bold vision: “[W]e may be able to imagine communities of this nature being born as Affiliated Mission Communities (AMCs) born from existing ‘incubator’ congregations. These communities can form a distinctive identity while at the same time keeping a sense of connectedness to the parent congregation and to other AMCs. Because they are likely to begin as smaller communities, several of them could be effectively led by one ‘missionary pastor’ who is part of the staff of the incubator congregation.”
“Thrilling!” you may say. “But what has this got to do with St. Luke’s?”
Well, it as it turns out, quite a bit!
The Metro Chicago Synod has invited St. Luke’s to partner with it in supporting the work of Dan Beirne, a missionary to the Logan Square neighborhood. Under terms agreed to by the Synod and St. Luke’s Church Council, Dan’s compensation will be provided by the Synod, and supervision will be provided by St. Luke’s staff. Most important of all, St. Luke’s will be an anchor for Dan as he does the bold work of reaching out to people in the Logan Square community (and beyond) who might not otherwise ever have a reason to engage with the Church.
Dan is a Naperville native and graduate of Valparaiso. He has done mission work in Namibia and El Salvador, and has been doing Young Adult Ministry for his Naperville congregation in the past year. In Dan’s words, his work will be “to reacquaint the Church with Young Adults, and Young Adults with the Church, through a series of expressions that are faithful to both the spiritual character of this generation, and the traditions of the Church.” His missionary work in the Logan Square community will be diverse and fluid, and is expected to combine elements such as small groups, recreational/cultural activities, local service projects, mission trips, and a range of spiritual activities such as prayer and ‘ordinary sanctuaries.’ He will partner with numerous area churches in addition to St. Luke’s. Dan sees his efforts as complementary to the work that St. Luke’s is already doing. “This will be a great opportunity to ‘overlap’ our ministries and efforts,” he said. “Members of St. Luke’s may take part in events I coordinate, at no extra burden to St. Luke’s staff or resources. Conversely, I may send individuals to St. Luke’s events that are already planned and running.”
Much of Dan’s work will be directed at young people who have reached the age of independence from parents and early exposure to traditional church experiences, but have not yet reached a stage in life when they might be naturally pulled back into regular church attendance. According to Dan, “there is a great wealth of exchange to be had between this generation and the Church. For, while not as religious in our expressions as our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, there is a rich culture of spirituality laced throughout our extracurriculars in how we travel, how we converse, how we express ourselves, and even in how we eat. Curiously enough, if carefully studied, there are many aspects of this new generational culture that seem to mirror the early church; a parallel that is simply far too meaningful to be undervalued any more.”
Some members of St. Luke’s have already met Dan when he has attended worship and events at St. Luke’s. Dan will be with us frequently in the weeks to come, so please take the opportunity to welcome him and find an opportunity to learn more from him about what he will be doing. Dan will be installed during worship in July.