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The young man, frustrated with what was happening with his job, went to his boss to turn in his resignation. The employer asked if the two could walk outside for a minute to talk. The two went to the front of the building. The employer pointed to the front door and asked the young man what he saw. He described accurately that he saw large windows that were on either side of an automatic door. He saw people coming and going. He saw nice potted plants leading up to the door. The employer asked if there was anything else, and the man said he didn’t think so. That’s when the employer pointed out the artwork above the door. Stamped in steel was the image of salmon swimming upstream. When you saw the image you could identify the rocks, the fish jumping and the rushing water. The employer went on to tell the young man that the art had been specifically chosen to represent the nature of the business. The company was all about helping businesses develop a healthy culture, but to do that often meant it would feel like swimming upstream, against so many obstacles and against the current that wanted to sweep people downstream in a go-with-the-flow mindset. The employer said, “what we do is not easy, but if we do it well, everything changes.” The young man appreciated the story of the art, and then he asked why, in the years since he started to work at that company, had that never been discussed at a staff meeting, why was it not part of the training materials, why was there not even a poster explaining the artwork near the entrance to the building? The young man then asked the most powerful question, “If the company knows this about what we do, why is the culture in this place to leave people feeling like they are failing when they struggle to do what they have been hired to do?”

Somewhere along the way the employer’s business had forgotten what was important to them when they started.

We are at the start of a new year as the Body of Christ, and I want to ask what is important to your life together as the church? What stories shape how you live together, what decisions you make? What values guide what you will do during the year ahead?

It is easy to rush right into planning projects and doing all the good things we do as the Body of Christ, but every now and then I believe it is important to intentionally remember who we are and what we are about. We tend to think each generation will automatically understand what it means to be the people of God, but the reality is that we must share the stories over and over again.

This year the East District will be intentional in living core values that are arising from the Church Growth and Vitality Initiative. As we identify the core values, we will ground them in Biblical witness. They will help us to remember who we are and they will help us to open our hearts to the leading of God’s spirit.

While the Core Values for the Initiative are a work in progress, we do remember that the summary of the information gathered from many areas and shared at last year’s Annual Conference include the following thoughts:

  • Vitality is a feeling that is brought to life through ministry
    • There is no cookie cutter vitality for every ministry setting, every ministry setting is unique
    • Numbers are not everything…spiritual growth counts
  • Need for Outward focus
    • Get out into our neighborhood and listen to needs – Conversation, not surveys
    • Transform the community through justice, even if the people won’t become members or attend our church 
  • Partner with other churches & the community
    • There is a great need for us to come together and share resources and support one another. More cooperation & less competition
    • Work cooperatively between churches and organizations is important. 

As the year begins I want to challenge you to clearly identify the core values of your community of faith. If you are bold enough to do that, I would invite you to send them to me. Let’s find ways to be intentional in the living of our beliefs this year, and let’s find ways to do that together.

Romans 12: 4 & 5
For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.

 In Christ,
N Susan Brims Signature

Susan Brims
Missional Strategist & Superintendent
East District
Desert Southwest Conference
The United Methodist Church

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