I’d like to share a few thoughts inspired by a recent Bryn Athyn Church Board Retreat held at the Cairnwood Garden House last Saturday (March 25). The purpose of these retreats (held every year or two) is to provide the board an opportunity to explore different topics in a relaxed venue and in greater depth than is possible at our regular monthly meetings. We tackled two topics - what is and isn’t the role of a church board and the next steps in strategic planning. Sounds like a snoozer, right? Not at all. For starters, it was fitting that we had gathered in the very spot where the vision for the town of Bryn Athyn, the Academy and a church community all began - John and Gertrude Pitcairn’s home. (If you haven’t already done this, I highly recommend taking the Cairnwood Estate tour. The staff do a masterful job of telling this inspirational story about how it all began). We considered founding documents like the Charter of the Bryn Athyn Church of the New Jerusalem which again might sound like a snoozer until you consider the historical significance of this charter and how it was granted by Montgomery County Judge Aaron S. Swartz on July 19, 1920 as the Bryn Athyn Cathedral was being built. Big plans were afoot. Again, it seemed fitting (providential?) that we were in this historic location considering the next steps almost exactly 100 years after these bold, visionary steps had been taken. It was an important, humbling exercise to affirm and honor all that has come before in the Bryn Athyn society - what worked, what didn’t - and then dip our toes in the brave new world of future planning. We have of course made a bold commitment to, and are about to begin, the construction of a brand-new church and school campus that is designed to last for the next 100 years.
We have almost completed the first year of a trial run of Community Worship Services which have been well received. We thought it wise to look at the results of the Appreciate Inquiry Survey done in 2012, noting where we scored high - educating children at BACS, creating service opportunities, providing worship services people value - and noting where we scored low - fostering an environment of respect and love towards those with differing viewpoints, attracting newcomers, engaging young people and empowering women to have meaningful roles in the church. We are considering other “gathering” events for this community that are modern, “re-tooled” versions of successful programs like Friday Supper and Class and other community gathering events that worked well in giving the congregation a unified sense of purpose and belonging. We ended by acknowledging that we are living in a polarized society and that we face very real and difficult challenges but I’m undeterred in that we live today with the same two “constants” as in the past - that we remain committed to the Lord in His Word, to the truths of the Second Coming, and that we, like those who came before us, crave human connection, a sense of purpose and belonging, and that this is what Bryn Athyn Church has provided for so well in the past and can do so in the future.