By Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson
Growing up, I loved the television show, EMERGENCY! The mid-70s medical drama centered on the heroic work of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Station 51, Squad 51 — specifically two paramedics named Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto. It appeared that every time Johnny and Roy called in from a scene to Rampart General Hospital, they were always instructed to, “Start an IV of D5W, TKO, stat!” Without fail.
IV, of course, is the abbreviation for “intravenous.” And, “stat,” which comes from Latin origin, is often used as a directive to medical personnel. It means “immediately” or “instantly,” as in right now! Even today, when colleagues use the abbreviation “IV” referencing the Innovation Vitality Team, it makes me think of EMERGENCY! Could it be because the church often needs an IV infusion of life, stat?
On that note, perhaps it’s the perfect time to share an IV (Innovation Vitality) stat (or two) that represents the work our team has been charged to lead, particularly around the practices of Inclusion, Innovation, and Multiplication. I am asked all the time about how much we are investing in existing congregations. And, I am always eager to answer that question.
There are several indicators for how we are all collaborating for a new vital church — one that empowers younger, queer, and people of color to innovate and co-create and help shift us from the status quo. For starters, consider these stats:
- 23 of the 37 projects supported across the Greater Northwest Area (GNW) are New projects, which represents 62% (a New project is a stand-alone new church or new campus/multisite project, led by an identified planter/innovator).
- 14 of the 37 are Vitality projects, which makes up 38% (a Vitality project is an existing church where an identified planter/innovator is appointed to foster vitality and new movement).
- What is the most exciting stat? Of the 37 supported projects, 20 are led by leaders of color! That’s 54%!
We believe it is an exciting time to be a part of the Greater Northwest Area. The IV Team has conducted several district trainings and workshops across the GNW, with more scheduled this winter and spring. These, again, focus on the practices of Inclusion, Innovation, and Multiplication. The practices are cultivated through the resourcing of intercultural competency, faith-based community organizing, asset-based community development, and intentional multiplication.
To equip pastors/innovators to navigate culture shift within our local churches and to re-embrace our Wesleyan rhythm of multiplication, we have continued our Multiplying Ministries cohorts, first piloted in 2016. These have helped position multiplication of new places across our conferences from places like Bend, Oregon, to Olympia and Marysville, Washington, and all the way to Squamish, British Columbia. In the process, new conversations have ignited about ministry opportunities. In fact, we see new movement in a number of exciting areas that strive to practice Inclusion, Innovation, and Multiplication. Here are some additional vital stats:
- The importance of intercultural competency has been repositioned as foundational to vitality.
- 13 churches joined in the Rural Church Engagement Initiative (RCEI) in 2019 from the Sage and Crater Lake Districts of Oregon-Idaho and the Seven Rivers and Inland Districts of the Pacific Northwest.
- 20 churches are poised and ready for the 2020 RCEI cohort, which includes the Alaska Conference this year.
- 13 new projects started over the last two years, six of which are vitality projects in existing churches.
- 26 interns engaged and placed in ministry settings across the Area.
- 7 people of color appointed to projects in 2019.
- 13 candidates being assessed for 2020 in our new leadership identification process, of which eight are people of color.
- 127 leaders trained to date in the last four cohorts of Multiplying Ministries, of which 91 are pastors serving existing local churches.
- 23 planters/innovators in 6 new cohorts launched Area-wide for 2020, which focus on social enterprise and financial sustainability of both new and vitality projects.
- Connected with thousands of leaders of color, building trust, new relationships, and opportunities, making way for a promising leadership pipeline.
The truth is there are a lot of indicators of life across the Greater Northwest Area, and that’s contagious. The thought of a vital movement on the horizon is generative, which can position the GNW to help shape something pretty special. As news of an impending split in the UMC populates the news feed, we need to stay focused.
So, while some folks across our connection might be declaring an EMERGENCY, take heart! It is important to remember that the Spirit is moving in fresh, new ways and that you are running a good race. That’s not to say that sometimes when we call in from the scene we might need an IV; stat! For now, let’s remember the new life that was recently born into our chaotic world. We know it as the “good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10).
Right now, it’s vital. Let’s continue to embody it.
Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson serves as Director of Innovation for a New Church for the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area including the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences.