The Room Where It Happens

 

We haven’t talked yet about the setting for church meetings – how rooms are set up to achieve your goals for that meeting or even the meeting location.   Location is especially crucial for mission committees, which is often the church group that finds itself at the intersection of the congregation and the world.

How about this for some guidance:  Never have a mission committee meeting in a room at your church.  The decision, actions, and contributions of your mission committee touch real people and places.  Sitting in a converted church school room on a mid-week evening, reviewing budget numbers and proposals about mission work can turn the whole enterprise into something hypothetical.  “Those people.”  “Groups in need.”  Mission committees need proximity. 

Go meet in a public library and observe who is there at 6:30 in the evening.  Meet in the cafeteria at your local hospital.  Visit some of your mission partners and ask to use their space for a meeting and do so not primarily to be on some “mission tour” but rather to do your committee work in context.  If your mission committee meets ten times a year and you can’t come up with ten different places to meet, maybe that is the top agenda item for your next meeting?

 

The Star Market 

by Marie Howe

 The people Jesus loved were shopping at The Star Market yesterday.

An old lead-colored man standing next to me at the checkout

breathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps.

 

 Even after his bags were packed he still stood, breathing hard and

hawking into his hand. The feeble, the lame, I could hardly look at them:

shuffling through the aisles, they smelled of decay, as if The Star Market

 

had declared a day off for the able-bodied, and I had wandered in

with the rest of them: sour milk, bad meat:

looking for cereal and spring water.

 

Jesus must have been a saint, I said to myself, looking for my lost car

in the parking lot later, stumbling among the people who would have

been lowered into rooms by ropes, who would have crept

 

out of caves or crawled from the corners of public baths on their hands

and knees begging for mercy.

 

If I touch only the hem of his garment, one woman thought, I will be healed.

Could I bear the look on his face when he wheels around?[1]

 

  • What is the poet’s experience at the Star Market?
  • Notice and discuss all the places in the poem that mention looking or seeing.
  • What is she scared of looking at?
  • What is the equivalent to the Star Market in your experience? In your committee’s experience?

Last week we introduced “Four Traditions of Philanthropy.” What do these four traditions suggest about where you might locate your mission committee meetings?

 

  • Where might you hold your mission committee meeting, if you want to engage in relief of suffering? Who would be there?

 

  • Where might you hold your committee meeting, if you want to improve people’s opportunities and maximize individual potential? Who would be there?

 

  • Where might you hold your committee meeting, if you want to engage in social reform, creating greater access to and equity of resources? Who would be there?

 

  • Where might you hold your committee meeting, if you want to foster civic engagement and build community? Who would be there?

 

[1] Marie Howe, “The Star Market”, from The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, 2008,  W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

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