This grammar is informed by our vision statement, and by our goals, and by our stated values. It is not “insider” language exclusive to so called “outsiders” because it is language that all people can grasp and understand. What is important about our developing grammar is that it tells the story of Sunnyside United Methodist Church and even more, when we make consistent habitual use of this grammar it informs and impacts how we live together and how we live out our Christianity.
“Mom, I am an anti-racist.”
“There is enough for all.”
“We are called to established deep, meaningful relationships.”
“We are building the front porch to the Kingdom of God.”
Cara and I had a conversation about our family values about one year ago and we landed on a few things. We identified our values to be generosity, simplicity, and justice. We identified these values because even though we had never explicitly stated them before we recognized that we make a deliberate effort to live them in our day-to-day lives. Even still, these values have to be held accountable, examined, and disciplined on a regular basis. We visit our family budget and finances every Sunday night to ensure that we are managing the resources God has given us in ways that allow for us to be generous and live simply. We commit to doing things together like Anti-Racism training to ensure that we are on the same page when it comes to justice. And when it comes to money matters, or social justice we talk very openly about all things with our kids to help them embrace these values. The point is, if we don’t talk about them it becomes too easy for us to dismiss them and slip into our former default habits (spending poorly, living too extravagantly, making choices to benefit ourselves above the community).
When Sunnyside UMC established a vision statement and core values in the fall of 2014 one of the Leadership’s deepest worries was that once that development process was complete we would fail to remember our vision and values and just go back to our default position. Our solution to this fear was to lift up our vision and values often in worship, in meetings, in trainings, and in conversation. This is why we return with regularity to a call to worship that reflects our vision statement. When I preach my, sermons will often include one or more of Sunnyside’s stated values along with its descriptor. When the leadership board gathers each leader is assigned a card with a value or with our vision statement and is invited to reflect on how he or she has lived into this value or supported the vision in the past month. I have facilitated the same process in other gatherings as well.
Because these values and this vision were the result of deliberate prayer, conversation, and discernment that led us all to the agreement that this is how God has called Sunnyside UMC to live together in community at this time. So we have to hold one another accountable to what God has called to. Even more, when our times together begin with a reflection on the values and vision God has placed before us we are more likely to remember these things in our time together. And over time, by the grace of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit a grammar will develop and the words we speak, the lives we live, and the way in which we follow Jesus Christ in the world will tell the world the story of Sunnyside United Methodist Church.
I invite you to reflect on our vision and our values today and ask God how God is calling you to live into and uphold these things.
We envision Sunnyside United Methodist Church to be the front porch to the Kingdom of God. A place where all are included, received with hospitality, find hope, experience the abundance of God's love and are transformed through Jesus Christ.
Love: God is love, therefore we are all born in love, by love, and for love.
Relationship: God is more interested in relationships than in rigid rules and religion.
Grace: By grace all people can be transformed in and through Jesus Christ.
Forgiveness: We are a community of imperfect people held together by forgiveness and God's grace.
Justice: In response to God's love for us we work for justice by committing ourselves to the causes that seek to bring hope, healing, and the fulness of life to all people and to all of God's creation.
Growth: We are building the Kingdom of God here and now. As we receive and practice love, relationship, grace, forgiveness, and justice, we will grow deeper in love with God, we will grow in relationship with our neighbors, and we will grow as a congregation to more fully represent the diversity of God's creation.