Showing up in Memphis

Gathering of Leaders offers a community–not just for validation–but for bold exploration. At the April retreat, we were invited to explore our leadership roles through examples of ministry, fellowship with other leaders, and selections of Scripture. 
One of my biggest takeaways from this retreat was the opportunity to step back and see the dynamically fluid state of the church and how it has always been so. We are all continuously operating in a grand experiment. Even if the programming or operating procedure that we are implementing has been done for 100 years, it has not  been done today with this exact group of people. Ministry Moments offered practical lessons and examples of how we might try to be The Church. We were told about ministry successes and failures with equal enthusiasm. Gathering of Leaders is an organization actively normalizing the failure process and re-framing it as a necessary step for achieving our goals. A vital church depends upon individuals wanting to lead the institution through the experimentation and failures of proclaiming the Good News. 
Like most retreats, the moments of fellowship energized me. Discussions around property insurance, the epidemic of loneliness, the significance of ordination, what it means to be a lay leader, societal responses to J.K. Rowling, programming ideas, who’s the best theologian, how I will survive being the mother of a teenager, and the trials of caring for a sick parent have stuck with me. My father died a few weeks after the gathering. In the tumult, I missed the reunion for my retreat. I was sad to miss the opportunity to see the friends that I had made. I still carried their companionship with me. We cannot be alone in this community. Our discipleship journey is shared. While every situation may be unique, we are universally trying to get it right and be the leader that God has called us to be. 
For Bible study, we read and discussed text from Lamentations and 1 Samuel. The lament of Jeremiah reminds me that we can make a conscious decision to orient ourselves towards a position of faith, preparation, and expectation continually seeking to follow God’s will for our ministries and missions. We can choose hope over despair.The struggles of Samuel turned kingmaker remind me that it is our human nature to desire the trappings and status symbols of the human domain because then we will be able to prove our success and worth. As leaders striving to be and make disciples of Christ, our success is measured in small, almost invisible, moments of peace. When we proclaim the Gospel to ourselves it is to remember that the Kingdom of God is within us. It is within the flesh, within the community, and within the conflict all around. To lead is to surrender our will and fears so that we may feel, hear, see, and share “the peace that passes all understanding.” 
The theme of the retreat was “Mission in the New Reality” and where/how we can find hope. I am privileged to work with young adults often. So I am privileged to find hope often. The young adults of today will change the church, and not just because they will increase average Sunday attendance or pledges. Young adults value authenticity and proof through action. You can say you are a Christian all day long, but what are you doing about it? They remind me of the leader that I want to be. I want to humbly surrender to God’s will, stick to my Baptismal Covenant, and honor the tenets of the Episcopal Church as best I can. What I believe about being a leader of mission in the new reality is that there is nothing new for me to fix or save Christianity from. Salvation is God’s job. My job, as a leader, is to keep showing up and try to get it right. And I know, from the work of organizations like Gathering of Leaders, that I will not show up alone.
Maggie Schaumleffel is the Director of Ministries at Barth House Episcopal Center, which means she spends a lot of time thinking about what it means to represent the Episcopal Church and preach the Gospel next to a college campus in Memphis, TN. (It usually boils down to a mix of prayer, activism, celebration, and hospitality.) A graduate of Hollins University, her happiest place is outdoors listening to live music with family and friends.