On Tuesday, August 27 eight folks came together to celebrate over fellowship, dinner, and dessert. Large desserts! From the greater Milwaukee area, from the state capitol, and from a farm in Randolph, Wisconsin, we came together in a mid-way point to share pieces of what we see God doing in our midst and within us.
Half of the folks represented the three projects that received grants from the most recent New Wineskins initiative. The other half of us were ABC/WI representatives who were honored to witness up close the excitement of the awardees and listen for how we might offer continuing support.
The conversations across the wide rectangular dinner table were continuous, synergizing, respectful, inspired, and inspiring. “Elevator speeches” were given about each project: a pastoral community of practice focused on mental health; a support group by and for intersectional trans people; and a new campus ministry that seeks a true collaboration between the local church and students on campus. The New Wineskins initiative stressed the importance of three main values:
- New means new: informed experimental ideas
- New relationships: populations currently not connected with, or who are under-served, within ABC/WI
- With and among, not to and for: relational – not transactional – ministry
Though all three projects were clearly distinct from each other, they all authentically exemplify the values we encouraged. It became also clear that they all sought to lift up people who are often misunderstood, the invisible, and/or the marginalized in mainstream society. Huh! Just like Jesus! Beyond the elevator speeches, we began to hear the personal stories that fuel and connect our project coordinators with the work they pursue. Isn’t that how God works though–starting from something that is already within us–a conviction, a hurt, a hope–and calling us deeper into it so that it has nowhere else to go but overflow outward–into action, into partnership, into light?
More than seeking church growth results, these ministries show human action fueled by human experience, seeking to foster spaces where people – in all of their humanity – can encounter Good News and God’s grace. They are going for it…narrow-path-taking power-turning kingdom-seeking bridge-building Christ-like-loving gospel work. It’s at times controversial and stigmatizing, all-the-time sacrificial and Spirit-led, and it is putting new wine into new wineskins.
I am still savoring the good fellowship, just as I am the first bite of my delicious chocolate dessert! Yes, I went for it! (By the way, I did share with someone else at the table — and we still had some to take home!)