By Altagracia Perez-Bullard
To form leaders for tomorrow’s Church, we must first examine our definitions of leader and Church. The Church, the gathered people of God, is where lives are transformed. As we encounter the power of the Spirit through word and sacrament, we are changed. Our primary purpose in life becomes to share what happened to us, showing through word and deed how God is alive and making all things new.
Of course, that means admitting we need transformation. It means bold preaching that challenges our lifestyles, our priorities, our values, and even our culture. It means challenging consumerism, greed, selfishness, addictive behaviors, and white supremacy, to name a few. It means a change of culture in our churches, not places frozen in time, but places that are ever changing and growing, just as those who are gathered are ever changing and growing.
As we encounter the Spirit, we become evangelists. We become people whose lives, gifts, and resources are dedicated to sharing the good news of Christ. That kind of community in turn raises up leaders who understand and can teach others about how a community guided and healed by the Spirit of God transforms while being transformed.
The experience of sharing the transformative reality of life with God creates a community that is not only being healed but also goes out to heal. These leaders will be formed by a community that models justice and inclusion within itself, and then organizes to go out and do the same in the many neighborhoods and institutions its members engage.
As God transforms us, leadership is redefined. Leadership is shared. Teams of laypeople and clergy challenge, teach, mobilize, feed, clothe and heal. They identify and equip others who will lead small groups of people passionate for God and what God is doing in the world. I work with congregational leaders who want to renew their churches, helping them renew their concept of leadership and ministry. They are equipped to use principles and strategies of community organizing to mobilize their community for change. They connect to the work of God and the passion within as the starting point for their call to serve the world. They are encouraged to be disciples, constantly learning, experimenting, and adapting, finding new and more effective ways to share the good news.
The Rev. Canon Altagracia Perez-Bullard, PhD, is canon for congregational vitality in the Diocese of New York.
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One question, eight reflections
This is the sixth of eight essays in which The Living Church and the Episcopal Church Foundation asked eight of the foundation’s Fellows this question: How can we form faithful leaders for tomorrow’s Church?
The eight voices published here represent only a small cross-section of over 50 years’ worth of ECF Fellows whose work continues to focus on forming leaders for tomorrow’s Church.
ECF identifies and supports scholars and ministry leaders who are committed to forming the next generation of leaders, both in the seminary classroom and beyond seminary walls. The application process for the 2018 Fellowship is now open and the deadline is March 16. If you would like to learn more about becoming an ECF Fellow, be sure to visit the ECF website.