Guess who's coming to dinner?!

by Jaynan Clark Egland
(President, WordAlone Network)

January 9, 2003

This week the Board of Directors of the WordAlone Network will gather in San Antonio, Texas for their quarterly meeting. Almost every board member will be staying in the area for Sunday services to preach and/or lead adult forums in a number of churches in the San Antonio area. The agenda for the meeting on Friday and Saturday is long and there is much work to be done, but I want to take this opportunity to make all of you aware of our Friday evening dinner and meeting plans.

A few months ago, a staff person from the ELCA churchwide office called the WordAlone office, at the direction of Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA, to invite WordAlone leaders to participate in the process of developing a strategic plan for the ELCA. This ten year strategic plan will provide a guide for the future mission and ministry of the ELCA as a whole. Obviously, the request took the staff by surprise.

We decided the best response was to ask that the meeting include all the members of the board. The churchwide staff agreed to come to our next board meeting in San Antonio. They asked for at least 90 minutes with the board, but preferred three hours. We invited them to join the board for dinner on Friday, and we set aside the three hours after dinner to meet with them and provide input for the ELCA strategic plan.

Though some may think nothing can be accomplished by participating in such an exercise, others will note that something has already been accomplished. WordAlone’s presence within the ELCA was not only recognized, but its input requested. That is significantly different than how we, as a Network, have been viewed and treated in the past. I, for one, welcome the opportunity to bring to the attention of churchwide leaders the concerns that WordAlone members, in every region of the country, have for the ELCA’s future. I relish the opportunity to share our hopes and dreams of how we can all be involved in Christ’s mission in the years and decades ahead.

We will not enter this discussion wearing rose-colored glasses, but we are hopeful that we can make a witness and perhaps a difference in the future of the ELCA. I ask that you pray for the members of the WordAlone board and the ELCA leadership that will meet with us. Though renewal and reform can often seem remote and difficult, nothing is impossible for God. Our Lord can even use such earthly elements as strategic plans and quarterly meetings in order that his will be done. Maybe even a dinner conversation can make a difference … just think what a Word shared at a meal can do! You never know what can possibly happen when Jesus comes to dinner.