When we invited friends to join us at Green Lake for our June retreat we had no idea who would come or how many. We were pleasantly surprised that almost seventy people joined our gathering. This group included a wide diversity of men and women from different racial and ethnic backgrounds as well as a generous representation of all generations. It included Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, evangelical and charismatic Christians from many of the major streams of Christianity in America. Several came from Great Britain and one from Latin America. Once we knew who was actually coming we planned our program. This is something I have never done in more than forty-five years of ministry. I have thought about it but never had the courage to try. We used the gifts that the people brought, thus we did not pre-invite speakers or announce a detailed program until people came. Even then we remained flexible and open to the Spirit’s leading us to make changes each day.
There were many highlights of our gathering at Green Lake but I think the most popular one was our meal conversations. We assigned people to the same table fellowship for breakfast each day. At lunch we broke our large group up again and assigned people to another table and group for lunch. We did the same at dinner. By the second day people were spending two-plus hours at their meal tables talking and forming deep and growing friendships through the many stories that made us laugh, cry and share our deep concerns. We learned that we do love the church and we came to treasure our own life together in common vision.
Workshops on a number of topics were offered in the late afternoon after a significant time for rest and relaxation. Along with our morning panels, which were Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant, we also addressed issues such as race, mission, worship and some of our important differences as Christians. But in all of this dialogue the focus was on what made us one in Christ. Each morning we worshiped and heard the Word of God preached, each day on a theme central to our purpose.
Finally, on the last evening we considered what we had heard together and what God might be saying to us. Many committed themselves to pray and discern what they should do about The Initiative. The majority of those who came expressed a deep desire to come back to Green Lake, June 23-27, 2019. Many of these people, and others who will join with them, will covenant together as members to guide the work of this community. Membership is not required to attend or share in the vision or work of the community. But we need members to organize the effort and move forward into a call to take missional unity into all the Christian Church while we remain faithful within our own tradition and churches. We will meet again at Green Lake to covenant and seek to “hear” God’s Spirit leading us forward. In the meantime various small groups are springing up around the country as friends share this vision of unity and seek to pass along a gift they shared at Green Lake 2018. You can see more about The Initiative at www.theinitiative.org and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/The-Initiative-870416703150502/?modal=admin_todo_tour. You can sign up for email from The Initiative at: http://eepurl.com/dA5GqH.
All are welcome to join us at Green Lake in 2019. Members will formally commit to the support of this community but friends and guests of The Initiative are warmly welcome to join us. We hope some of you who could not come this year will come next June to check out what God is doing. (Again, all our events are open to everyone.) Meanwhile, we hope to have various small group gatherings in a number of cities in 2018-19, including, but not limited to, Boston, Washington-Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Orlando, and the Carolinas.
NOTE: Remember, this ACT3 Weekly will cease in three or four weeks and only those who sign up for The Initiative will receive email from me. You can sign up at: http://eepurl.com/dA5GqH
ACT3 This Week (August 6-12)
- Besides doing some local meetings and administrative work for The Initiative I will be home the first part of this week.
- On Thursday I go to Louisville to lead some workshops on Costly Love for the international conference of University Bible Fellowship. Please pray for this wonderful opportunity to serve.
John H. Armstrong