My friend Rabbi Sharon Brous made an important point in a memorable way during a recent TED Talk: when our only options are dead religion and deadly religion, we need a new alternative.
In other words, when we have quiet, predictable, routine religion drudging along in one direction, and angry, hostile, scapegoating, militant religion screaming along in another direction ... we need to seek higher ground altogether.
Or to put it in the words of another friend, Fr. Richard Rohr, the best antidote to bad religion is not no religion, but butter religion.
That's what the School of Convergence Leadership is about.
We want to help your congregation embrace and embody what I have called "a new kind of Christianity" - a vital, inclusive, progressive Christian faith that is just and generous, contemplative and active, deeply rooted and deeply engaged with our world and its needs.
For a new kind of vital, just, and generous Christian faith to take root, it's not enough to have the pastor attend a conference or read a book. And it's not even enough for one congregation to rise to a new level on its own.
That's why we'll be bringing together twenty congregations to form a regional cohort. Each of those congregations will identify ten "lead learners" - staff and lay leaders (including young leaders) - who will be part of eight webinars and two weekend symposia, along with individual and online learning through books, online courses, and other well-designed resources.
Our initial year will begin with a focus on message and alignment: what is our core message or story, and how can we align every song, prayer, group, activity, ritual, budget, and holiday with the purpose and passion that flow from our core message? Then your congregation will think strategically about your desired mission - locally, regionally, nationally, globally. Pastors will take part in a special week-long retreat that will include both spiritual formation and practical skills training to deepen and broaden their impact. We'll end the year with a written plan for next steps, including, if you're interested, continuing on with years 2 and 3 of the School.
Our ultimate goal is to help twenty vital congregations emerge who will introduce a new spiritual alternative to the people of your region. We hope your increased vitality will be contagious to other faith communities, so you can work together for the common good.
We live in uncertain and dangerous times. Some churches will be part of the problem and some will try to play it safe on the sidelines. But some congregations - hopefully yours - will step forward as never before to lead the way in becoming part of the solution, joining with God for the healing of our world.
If you'd like to explore forming a cohort of the School of Convergence Leadership in your region (or in forming a special national cohort of rural congregations), please contact us. Cohorts are scheduled to launch in mid- and late-2017 and early 2018.