Where is the yeast in your life? What’s your piece of the puzzle

By Stewart Munro, Chair of the Congregational Strategy Team

It’s great to be here this morning.   I love mornings.   As the new Chair of the Strategy Team, I ask that you will give me the opportunity to display some of my “strategicness” by adding another metaphor into the mix so as to ensure that the Bread analogy doesn’t become stale…

In the past few weeks we as a congregation have been exploring the parable in Matthew 13:33; in which the kingdom of heaven is likened to what happens when a woman mixes a little yeast into three big batches of flour.

From a Strategy perspective we are firmly steeped in “three point”, they will always intersect and if pushed will always be drawn in concentric circles or a Venn diagram…

The three levels of individual interaction with strategic planning through strength-based coaching are:

  • Metaa specific interest or concern for an outcome:
    “We are called to create a loving nurturing community, growing a deeper faith in God through Christ Jesus”
  • Macrofocus areas or influence goals that the impact output:
    • Goal 1: Provide for all people in relationship with Kippax means to develop a motivated, informed, compassionate faith that strengthens their engagement with life
    • Goal 2: Provide for all people in relationship with kippax broad, holistic care, covering the whole of life
    • Goal 3: Nurture, empower and support people in relationship with kippax who contribute their time, energy, skills and resources to the community both within and beyond kippax
    • Goal 4: Contribute to the development of a more inclusive, just and compassionate local community nation and world
    • Goal 5: Provide ministry and service within a sound business framework of efficiency, transparency, accountability and compassion.
    • Goal 6: To be innovative in the delivery of best practice community services and support, reflecting the changing needs of the community, planning responsibly, and considering our future needs to fulfil our mission.
  • MicroThe level at which individuals can select and control tactical activity: some examples include:
    • challenging study groups,
    • thoughtful worship teams,
    • skilled pastoral care teams,
    • generous hospitality especially for funerals,
    • the quiet mentoring that occurs,
    • social groups like over fifties, super singles, young families, cross crew, and
    • interest groups like craft, walking, bikes, social justice group. Prayer breakfasts, strategic dinners, as well as
    • the mammoth amounts of volunteering throughout the year, the partnerships with other organisations e.g. TEAR, ongoing education at events e.g. FED event, and the activism and engagement with government that Kippax Uniting has locally/nationally.

This is our context. And our shared belief, theology and understanding is that

  • the nature of God is itself community;
  • the nature of humanity is community; and
  • the primary way in which God works is “incarnational” – God comes alongside us, relates with us, and expresses love, acceptance and transformation.

Coupled with exploration of parable in Matthew 13:33 over the past weeks I introduce the Puzzle metaphor …

Try having a look at this

As I prepared for this chat I got stuck in, read countless reflections, sermons and theological statements and guidance. As my very strategic father would say…. For every complex problem there is always a simple solution…. and 98% of the time it is wrong…

I, like many, started out with images of yeast capturing faith; being active, growing, organic, the catalyst of change. Then with further reading I learned of the traditions, the syntax/ hidden meaning of leaven. Then I immersed myself in the sermons of the past weeks and I have landed with the idea of yeast was about breaking norms (not a particularly unusual idea for Jesus), forcing a change of focus from traditional events/ rituals so that the purpose and meaning that was the original foundation of those traditions.   What was the purpose or meaning?

Fellowship: meeting with and engaging with strangers; and inclusion.

If you would indulge me: the focus had been on the puzzle pieces….. “not the joins”, “not the picture”, and “not the aim of puzzling activity”.

How many times have you let titles, personalities, appearances, conflicting beliefs etc. stopped you from reaching out and offering a piece of the puzzle or asking for a piece to add colour, value, clarity and growth to the context of the problem or goal?

How many of us have let the meaning of the individual puzzle piece become more important, take up more resources than the Picture (benefit or vision)?

Let me tell you a brief story…..
“On my rise through the middle management ranks I came across a certain individual. This individual was in charge of strategic planning for the organisation (clearly a passion of mine). I reached out with 546 million ideas, graphs and concepts which could improve the current state…. These were flat out rejected and ignored. Instead of building a relationship with this individual I decided on actively promoting my ideas throughout the senior executive, while being less than favourable to my newly formed nemesis.

My ideas were greeted favourably by the senior exec – I was praised – and consequently my relationship with this individual was destroyed.   Later – post role changes – I came a cross a puzzle that no matter how hard I tried, none of the pieces I had with me seemed to fit… I reached out to the executive network…. And who should answer… with the pieces in-hand (some of them already put together).

It turns out that it wasn’t an issue with my ideas – it was an issue with my approach – “If you want to go fast, travel alone. If you want to go far, travel together.

Once I had left the organisation it became evident that I hadn’t taken people on the journey and embedded the capability as deeply as I had assumed.

As the years went on, I have grown close to this individual and in fact I count them in my closest circle of coaches and mentors. This person showed me the value of seeing the picture, gathering the pieces, structuring the border and then empowering the people to add value, and include their piece of the puzzle to express their capability and solve the problem.

Taking this metaphor and making it a bit more tangible and useful:

The strategy team is aware that:

  • Everyone in the community has a piece of the puzzle;
  • That the council’s discernment document provides the picture on the box;
  • The congregation is flexible about the scale/ how many pieces are there/ needs to be;
  • This congregation is open to how many people are puzzling together

With that in mind the Strategy team will be active in their engagement in communication and engagement to ensure that we:

  • Identify and support areas where we are missing pieces
  • Celebrate and guide the integration of additional pieces; and
  • Try to reduce complexity where possible to limit occurrences of jamming pieces of puzzle that clearly don’t fit together

Conversationd with members of the congregation including those in the strategy team (some of which have been on this journey for 40 years) describe the sense of uniqueness of the integrated culture, leadership and theology that underpins the UCK, KUC relationship.

The permission and celebration surrounding taking the opportunity re-think one’s faith, based on life experience. This community with its diverse and resilient faith and culture supports agility in its ability to think both individually and collectively, express and promote direction, and have targeted discussions on investment.

In the lead up to the AGM, the strategy team has a keen focus on supporting the ways we live our life through our relationship with others. Noting Kippax is a place and a source of many strong, profound and helpful relationships and that these relationships, and these sub- communities look as diverse as the people in them.

Our Visioning document predicts that over the coming 20 years West Belconnen, will be impacted by substantial new housing development alongside the existing local community. Our call to create a loving nurturing community extends both to those communities which are already formed as well as to those places which do not yet exist.

The council, the Strategy Team, the UCK board, and the broader leadership of this place have a history of meeting together, creating and fostering support mechanisms to keep the leadership focused and aligned in keeping to the vision and call. Church congregation – Faith challenges UCK – service challenges – together the holistic value proposition to the community in which we have been called….

  • Graham Long Pastor at the wayside Chapel in kings cross states “when a meeting between two people truly takes place, when there is just you and me and we are interacting in a very real and honest way, dropping agendas and stepping into a wide open space where the air is fresh…. This is when we come to life.”

The Strategy team is keen to continue to celebration of the value of the individual and group efforts and stories (some captured in the Annual Report) and note the ongoing contribution both in impact and energy of the “we, not me culture” of: Learn, explore, act, reflect, share, grow!

Piggybacking off the Martin Luther King quote used by John Emmett to once again solidify the puzzle metaphor:

  • “all life is interrelated, that somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, until you are what you ought to be, I can never be what I ought to be This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

This coupled with the theological concepts in my conversations with my mentors and members of the congregation past and present – for me is beautifully captured in a passage from Rev Graham Long’s book “Love over Hate – Finding life by the wayside

  • “I live my life expecting that it may well be the next Muslim or Hindu or atheist I meet who teaches me how to be a better Christian. I hope too that I am the kind of Christian who can make a Muslim a better Muslim, or a Jew a better Jew or an atheist a better atheist.”

With that I leave you with three questions:

  • “What does the yeast look like in my life?”
  • “With whom will I engage with to better see the whole/ different picture?”
  • “Which piece/s will I bring to the puzzling table this year?”
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